It's mid-May almost. I just snipped lily of the valley from the backyard. The fragrance is unmistakably sweet. Something I imagine smelling on a grandma with a hankie. Mother's Day is two more flips of the daily calendar. Many years I shared my birthday with a celebration of my mother for Mother's Day. I was happy to do that.
My mother has been gone from this earth for 12 years. She battled ovarian cancer which is never pretty. Cancer is rarely pretty. Some people beat it. I wish we heard more of that. It seems lately too many people I know are in the throes of it. It taxes the most resilient patient and caregivers.
I remember clearly the first visit my mom and dad and I made to the oncologist who seemed almost flippant. Like this as an everyday thing that he had under control. He did not welcome questions. My mother was rarely demanding, but after a time, she decided to look for another doctor. The second oncologist was very business-like despite my mother's efforts to soften his "style." Six months before she died, we, my father, mother, and I, visited that second cancer doctor who told my mother that there might be one more drug she could try that would give her like 30% chance of living six more months. My mother was done. She wasn't giving up. By this point, it was about quality of life. She'd had numerous allergic reactions, nearly died from chemo drugs, had been through three different rounds plus bouts of radiation, made it 23 months past the first round instead of the 24 months we were hoping for because statistics said she'd live longer if she could make it 24 months--some kind of magic number or guesstimate. She almost NEVER complained. By the time she decided no more chemo, she was four and a half years in. The moment that she told the doctor that she was not going to try this last ditch chemo, he was DONE. That was it. It didn't seem to matter that she was in pain, that we had questions. It felt so heartless. Surely there has to be a happy medium between over-confident and cold. I remember so much about those years, the doctor visits, the good times, and there were many, in between the tough ones. But there was always, always a nearly crippling sense of loss before THE loss that I could not shake.
I recall one day my mother was not her usual inquisitive self on the phone. Later I learned that she had stopped in the middle of the living room near a chair and sobbed in my father's arms. It would have shaken me to the core to see that. I think I'd seem my mother cry three times--at her father's funeral, when her arm got caught somehow in a window, and when my brother left tar in his pants and they went in the dryer. She sat for hours in front of the dryer scraping tar off the drum.
I know people, mostly women, who had mothers who criticized their appearance, who failed to mother them in the most incomprehensible ways, mothers who died young, mothers who were absent physically and emotionally. When I hear their stories, I know I was lucky.
Even now though I struggle for words to say how much she meant to me. She was not perfect, though I often thought she was. Darn near it often seemed. She had an unquenchable curiosity about life and an invincible spirit. She infected and affected people she met with her kindness and positive disposition.
I'll let this poem speak for her absence.
The Cake Knife
scorched in one spot
in my mother’s
cabinets and dark spaces
in the silver chest
my father said
and I use the knife
he hands me
to cut my favorite cake
the one she always made
that does not
taste the same
--first published in YourDailyPoem.com yourdailypoem.com/listpoem.jsp?poem_id=2231
A recent version (2018) below made with one grandmother's square cake pan and my other grandmother's depression glass plate.
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The Revival Tour
Poet Bloggers 2018
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