I sorta laughed to myself when it dawned on me what I had suddenly found myself wanting as I laid on the couch that day. And continuing to think about it, tears fell hard when I realized the depth of what I had longed for. Wracked with sobs that profoundly shook me to the core of my soul, I was also left feeling a wee bit embarrassed. Sometimes thoughts and feelings can tiptoe right in like a tornado, whirling around in our mind, and in the end we’re left picking up the pieces. I felt ripped right open, my weakness and vulnerability exposing me raw.
January 1st found me sick with fever and chills, aches and pain, and a tiredness and fatigue I don’t think I had ever quite experienced before. Happy New Year to me! I had had visions of starting the New Year out with a disciplined walking and exercise program to get more fit, and decluttering and cleaning my house. Instead, I was relegated to couch and bed, propping hot water bottle on throbbing right ear, popping anti-inflammatories for aching bones, and watching all 280 episodes of Golden Girls. I think it was the first time in my 56 years on this spinning planet that I can honestly say I felt too sick to go to the doctor. But dragging myself off the couch, I did finally go and while I had nothing life-threatening, it was made clear to me that even with antibiotics, prednisone and nasal sprays, this was not a bug I would get over quickly. Days turned into weeks and I was still alternating between bed and couch, ENT and primary care doctor, hot water bottle becoming my best friend.
On one fever-ridden day when the throbbing of the ear was unrelenting, the meds didn’t seem to be helping a thing, there was no energy to walk to the kitchen to even make a bowl of soup, and I was seriously starting to wonder if I was going to survive this bacteria that had taken over my body, I suddenly found myself wanting my mother. Fifty-six years old, a mother to grown children, resigned to the couch sick, and I found myself wanting my mother. My mother had been deceased for 9 years. I missed being physically touched and loved by her. I’m convinced that no one loves you and cares for you like your mother.
I laid there in a flood of memories, recalling as a child, the loving touch of her hand on my burning forehead feeling for fever in her youngest daughter, while using her other hand to place the mercury thermometer under my tongue. And then how she would smooth down my hair and tell me she loved me. I could almost feel the warmth of her lips on my hot forehead. I remember all the nights she was up with either my sisters or me– whether it be a fever or belly ache and vomit to clean up, she was up to offer her support and comfort. I think of all the nights she came into a bedroom at night offering cough syrup to a kid keeping the whole household up with their hacking. And I recalled the sound that she would make with her teeth– a slight gritting/ grinding sound. I heard her make this sound so often when I was growing up and while I found it strangely odd, I also found it endearing. She made it when she greeted our German Shepherd and his wagging tail every morning. She made it when she caressed a sick daughter’s head. She made it when she reached down to pet the cat. She made it when she lovingly bent over to admire my family of gerbils in their cage. It was a sound I always knew her to make only when she felt deep love and affection for something or someone. You see I know this because when I found myself grown with a family and a household of my own to run, I discovered I sometimes made the same gritting sound with my teeth when I stroked my own sweet child’s head or my beloved dog’s head or gave my cat a scratch behind the ears. I guess the old saying’s true– Like mother, like daughter.
Do we ever really outgrow our need for a mother’s love? Do we ever stop longing for the care of our mothers? I don’t think so. I don’t think needing our mothers ends with their death. I feel grateful for the times my mother nursed me through childhood injuries and sickness–taking care of my physical needs. I miss my mother in times of joy and also in trials and sorrows. But I have not been abandoned or forgotten. I’m convinced my mother’s love and caring continue on.