We didn’t always get along the best, you and I.
Both headstrong and stubborn, independent and driven, but the same in so many ways.
Living under the same roof wasn’t always easy but maybe you weren’t aware of how glamorous and creative and beautiful I thought you were…and maybe that was a little scary to see me grow up so fast.
The thing is, I had never been anyone’s daughter before but as far as I know, you hadn’t been anyone’s mother either.
I can’t remember if I said much, the times I came to visit you in the hospital, although I can only hope that I made you feel wanted and loved and strong. Long after you recovered from your first cancer (stage four lung, then brain, and can you believe it’s been NINETEEN years?), I interviewed you for a college project and asked you about your life. You told me about your career as a young, trendy hairstylist and boyfriends who wanted to marry you, and hot little cars. You bought your own Corvette (more than one, actually) do you have any idea how cool that was to me?
Then you told me about meeting my Dad (I will always listen to what psychics have to say) and then you told me again, as if I had never heard it before, the day that I was born and Dad accidentally drove you to a psychiatric hospital. Then, when you finally arrived at the real one, they told you to go home and have a nice, stiff drink. I’d show up on my own sweet time.
You still can’t drink gin and tonics to this day but don’t worry, I can.
But the thing that sticks out the most — the thing that I’ll never forget — is when you told me about the story of when you first got sick. You said, “Dying wasn’t an option, I had two kids to take care of.” Mom, I’m sure I didn’t let it show at the time — I’m not very good at that and I’ve always had lots of people to act strong for, but I’ve never felt so truly, so genuinely, so unselfishly loved in my entire life.
You only recently told me the story about Mrs. C and how every day after your radiation, you would stop by her house for tea. She had been through cancer too but when her’s came back, she called you. She called you every day, including the day she died, when she asked you to visit. You told me that you brought her a soft, stuffed puppy dog (I can’t shake how appropriate that seemed) and how she poured her heart out to you and told you all of the hopes and dreams she had for her children. And when you asked her what she was going to do, she said, “I don’t know, I’ve never died before” and that, well, that just about killed me.
Those boys didn’t get to have to their mom as long as I’ve had you and they should have because she was wonderful. But you were wonderful too and I’m not sure I’ve appreciated you as much as I should have.
Even though the one time you said you were bringing me a “surprise” from your day out shopping, you arrived with a potato peeler. I shouldn’t have been so disappointed. I’d be happy to peel potatoes with you any day.
When I moved across the country, that was a little too far. I may have been an old soul but California isn’t the place to be when you don’t know who you are yet. But then again, I started on gin and tonics at a young age.
We got along much better when I moved less than 10 minutes away, didn’t we? You seemed proud that I had my own place and was doing my own thing. Well, you should have been, you were my inspiration…and the reason I wanted to live 10 minutes away.
Now I’m a five hour drive from home and most days, that doesn’t seem close enough. I still get frustrated when you don’t understand call waiting and I’m sorry for losing my patience the other day about the description of a ramen noodle.
Because when it comes down to it, you’ve taught me more than either of us will probably ever know about life and death and all of the stuff in between. And I don’t say thank you enough for it.
So in my ever-so-awkward way, I’m trying to say thank you for choosing to live and for teaching me to do the same.
Happy Birthday, Bailey.