By STEVE STEINER
My mother passed away in late November 2004, just before Thanksgiving. So, not having her present when Mother’s Day rolled around did not leave me aching over her absence.
Truth be told, even when Thanksgiving arrived, there was no feeling of emptiness. The same when Chanukah rolled around. And New Year’s Eve. And Valentines Day.
Now, I did feel a twinge of sadness on March 15, which would have been my parents’ 56th wedding anniversary. However, that was more for my father’s loss, as he dearly loved her.
But outside that, nothing.
It wasn’t because I didn’t love my mother. Nor was ours a contentious relationship. Quite the opposite.
With her passing, my mother was at peace. No more pain and suffering, which she had more than her share, beginning with the childhood illness that sapped most of her hearing. It relegated her to second-class citizenry, which she resented. My mother was a brilliant woman, not only book smart, but also “street smart.” But because of attitudes, her options were limited, and it brought about much emotional pain throughout her life.
Although she loved my father, he was not her first love. She was engaged to a man who was of Italian heritage and was a Roman Catholic. She being Jewish, this was frowned upon by her family. It didn’t matter to her, because her parents were not religious. Her mother had escaped Czarist Russia. Her father was a socialist. But in those times anti-Semitism was “the norm.” In the end, she didn’t marry him, but only because he was killed in World War II.
Now, I can and do fully understand the grief many feel who have lost one or both parents, and for them, occasions such as the birthday of a departed parent, as well as special occasions such as Mother’s Day roll around, makes their feelings of loss more poignant.
But for me, and I admit to being cynical, even as a child, then youth, then adult, I never felt the need or desire to celebrate Mother’s Day. To me, it was (and still is) a manufactured holiday. It’s not so much the fact that it has been co-opted by greeting card companies and retailers and restaurants, as it is a feeling of obligation (i.e., if you don’t shower your mom with cards and gestures, it must mean you’re an ingrate).
For the majority of her life, my mother was a fighter; specifically, the right to be respected. Regardless the deck of cards life handed her, afflicting her with a loss of hearing that worsened as the years unfolded, she demanded respect, and woe unto anyone who didn’t.
Thus it is I do not miss my mom in the way many others profess. I don’t miss her on Mother’s Day any additional way as I don’t miss her during the rest of the year. This is because I carry with her the legacy she gifted me. It’s why I realized my destiny as a journalist. Although our tactics differ, I am no less as fierce a fighter as my mother was. Like her — in my case using the gift of the written word — I am the ears and voice for those who often are not seen nor heard.
So, when Mother’s Day 2005 rolled around and every Mother’s Day since, I don’t grieve. How can I miss someone who has never left me and never will?