For the first time in 34 years, I think of my birthday from my mother's perspective.
The time I was born. The story she told of how my sister peaked in the window of the hospital room with those big blue eyes as if to say 'what are MY parents doing in there with THAT thing and why am I not allowed inside?' How did she feel when she saw me for the first time? Was she the first person to kiss me? How long before the worry set in? Did she wonder how she was going to afford two kids?
The time in our first house where I was still in diapers and a high chair and had cake all over my face. Did she make that cake or buy it at the store? Did she pick out my blue dress special for the occasion?
The time in our second house where there was a double party for me and my best friend. I fell off a bench while decorating and she rushed me to the hospital. She fainted when they re-set my arm. The party went on. Was she terrified? Was she exhausted? Was she annoyed? Did she have to go to work the next day?
The time in our third house when I got my first electric guitar and amp. Did she go with my dad to get it? Did she research guitars on the internet? Did she have to save up money and for how long?
The time we stopped speaking. A package arrived to my work address because I didn't want her to know where I lived. A necklace, I think. I can't even remember what it looked like. I didn't want a gift. I wanted to know she accepted me. Did it break her heart to send a gift to my work? Did she agonize over whether or not to send a gift at all? Did she hope I would call her and we would make up? Was she crushed when the kind gesture didn't solve all our problems?
And now today. Of course, there is sorrow in knowing my remaining birthdays will never be accompanied by the sound of her voice. But there is pain in knowing there were so many birthdays I could have heard her voice and didn't. I spent those birthdays surrounded by friends. Chosen family. I convinced myself I didn't need a call from my mother. I never thought, until today, about how she felt every time June 8th rolled around. Did she cry all day? Did she put in long hours to distract herself? Did she polish off a couple bottles of wine? Was she angry? Did she throw glass trinkets against the wall? Did she pray? Scour the Bible for verses about children who betray their parents? Did the tumors grow faster on June 8th?
I'm trying to let go of the guilt of it. I'm trying to forgive myself for not being kind or compassionate or smart enough to find a solution besides silence during that time. Doing your best on a war-torn battlefield is different than doing your best in a motherless meadow. One place sharpens your survival skills. The other place softens your perspective.
And that's how the tears come on this gloomy June day. A soft pitter-patter of perspective spilling out of cloudy eyes onto a 34 year-old face.