My Mom, Marie Wilder
May 14, 1928 – July 30, 2011
This is my mom, Marie. Last Saturday, May 14, would have been her 88th birthday. May 14 is also my birthday. Fifty-seven years ago, I got to be someone’s birthday present. After two boys who were 11 1/2 and 7 1/2, my mom didn’t think a baby girl was in the picture. Then I came along, on her birthday, a week late, and she hadn’t spoken to her husband, my dad, in two weeks. He went on a bowling tournament out of town when she was 39 weeks pregnant. I probably wouldn’t have spoken to him either! On the morning of her 31st birthday, my dad dropped mom off at the hospital and went to work. He stopped by the hospital on his way home from work to see if anything had happened. That’s when he found out from his sister, the head OB nurse, that he had a daughter (he was still getting the silent treatment).
Two days later, he walked into my mom’s hospital room on his way home from work and asked my mother if I’d been circumcised yet. Reportedly, my aunt said, “Brother dear, you do know babies come in different styles, don’t you?” That’s when my mother took pity on him and started talking to him again, probably by first laughing her head off. Such was my beginning into the world😀
Because I had these two older wilder (yes that’s a pun on my maiden name) brothers, my mom was afraid I would turn out terribly spoiled. She asked my pediatrician about it and he told her, “Mrs. Wilder, she’s not spoiled; she’s just well loved.” And that was what my mother did best – she loved well. She was critical and judgmental but she loved well. It took someone who didn’t have her mother’s love to point this out to me. Life is amazing like that. Six weeks before she died, my mother threw her arms around me and said, “you are the love of my life!” She’d never said anything like that to me before. Looking back, I’m sure she knew she was dying. A lot of old hurts healed in that one spectacular moment, and I can still feel that hug and her breath on my neck as she said those words, as if it happened a second ago.
I miss her everyday, but especially every May 14. Out of the 52 years we had, we spent 50 birthdays together. My parents worked hard to make that happen! I tend to not quite know to do with myself on my birthday these days but it’s not a sad day either; it’s just very different. I’ll figure it out eventually! In the meantime, I hold space for my own healing (see previous post on holding space – yes, we can hold space for ourselves too!).
This year, I’d planned to visit my hospice patient who was just two weeks older than my mom. I actually first met this woman at my mother’s funeral, and it just felt right to spend a few hours with her on my birthday. She died five days before so I really felt lost which seems to bring out some ADHD in me. Do you fellow grievers ever feel like grief gives you squirrel brain? From the time I woke up on my birthday, I cried, I tried to read, I did some shopping – nothing was settling me down. I tried quilting and my sewing machine was acting up so I wanted to google some help. As I walked into my office, the picture to the right was sitting in front of my monitor. It’s a picture of Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon. I started to laugh immediately and I knew this was my birthday gift from one of my sons. Bartolo pitched for the Oakland Athletics (my fave team) when I was terribly sick in 2012 & 13. He’s a character, and watching him pitch when I was so sick was one of the few bright spots of that summer and fall. He was traded to the Mets in 2014 and is still with them (BOOOOOOOOOO!). A few weeks ago, Bartolo hit his first major league home run playing against the Padres in San Diego. It was a hoot watching this 285+ lb 42-year-old pitcher lumbering around the bases; it’s just not something you see everyday and he may have set the record for slowest run around the bases. We probably watched the clip 5 times! (I know, we’re a bunch of boring baseball nerds.) As goofy as this whole story sounds, it was a moodshifter for my birthday. I laughed and laughed and will chuckle every time I see this picture. My son got me a goofy gift that he knew I’d get a kick out of and I with that one simple thing, I let go of all the angst that was making my shoulders rise up over my ears. I could breathe again. And what do you know, when I got back to my sewing machine, it stopped acting up!
If there are any takeaways to this story, it’s healing is always available, even in the most unlikely of ways and even when we think we don’t need any more healing. Being open to it and being willing to be surprised by it is one way of holding space for ourselves. It’s hard to quiet down the squirrel chatter of a grieving mind to listen and hold that space, but when we can open our hearts enough to let in a little light (like laughing at a silly picture), healing happens. It just does!
If you want to see that 285 lb, 42-year-old first major league home run by Bartolo Colon, check it out here: