My mom had MS. I grew up with her as a single parent of two, caring for her and helping run the household as she grew more ill. Just a few short years after I moved out, she was moved to a care facility, with around the clock care but just one room to herself.
When I became pregnant with our first child, she was very much aware and excited, but we lived in a different city, a different province and were not able to visit very frequently. The pull of family after you start your own is very strong and so -after our second was born- both myself and my husband yearned to “go home” to where our families were. It was on the way back from our Christmas visit that year that we finally made the decision to move home.
I don’t know what the deciding factor was for my husband, but for myself it was the realization that my mother was getting sicker and our boys would likely not ever remember her. It was a lightbulb moment where it just clicked that no matter if they did remember her, that they would never, ever know her as I knew her. That my memories of her could not be shared in the same way, they would never know the joy of her laugh or share her favourite foods. We would never go to Gramma’s and make cookies, do crafts or have movie marathons with cheesy popcorn. But even so, we could give her as much time as possible with her grandchildren.
And so, we moved home. And my mother passed away a short 6 months later.
Now, I miss all the things that I can’t talk to her about. Even when our first was born, her memory was going. The disease made her believe things that happened in dreams were real, or she’d tell us certain gifts in her room were baby heirlooms from when we were little, when we knew it was something a friend brought the last time she was in the hospital. After becoming a mom, I so longed to ask about when I was growing up. What was it like being my mom, to ask to hear stories about me growing up. But, I had no idea what would be true and what would be her illness making things up, so I never asked.
When our sons loose teeth or have struggles with friends, I want to ask her what it was like when I was little. We have started having “the talk” with our boys, and I would love to ask her “Was I that young when the questions started?”.
Mothering without my mother has probably been the hardest part of being a parent for me. To not share that with her; someone that I was so close to, the person who made me want to be a mom; is incredibly difficult. But I have come to realize that the love I have for my boys is the same she had for us. So when I am feeling lost and not sure what to do, I simply have to ask myself: what would I tell my sons in this situation? It’s not perfect, and it will never replace what has been lost, but it helps.
And so, I continue on, trying to share what I can of her with my children and keep her memory alive.