If only I could: Gifts I would have given my mother

On so many Moth­er’s Days, I gave my moth­er dainty ear­rings in little boxes wrapped in pretty pa­per.  I would choose those ear­rings with care to match her green eyes. 

And every year, she said she loved them, even as she painstak­ingly peeled back the pa­per so that it could be salvaged. My late moth­er was a prac­tic­al wo­man. 

There also were gifts of scarves, brace­lets and the “White Dia­monds” scent she loved.               

But as this sixth Moth­er’s Day without my moth­er ap­proaches, I’m haunted by the gifts I didn’t/couldn’t give. The more ab­stract ones.

The first, strange as it sounds, would have been a more con­sid­er­ate world. 

The one she’d once known had van­ished, and that ab­sence had left my sweet moth­er in a cul­ture where so much ci­vil­ity and grace were gone. I would glimpse my moth­er’s baffle­ment at the vul­gar­ity and the ugli­ness that pass for mod­ern civil­iz­a­tion, and my heart would lurch.

Mom used to joke that there were no movies left for “prudes” like her. I loved that she had re­tained her lifelong status as a lady. It was one of her most en­dear­ing qual­it­ies.

If I could have, I would have de­livered a Moth­er’s Day gift of a whole suc­ces­sion of glor­i­ous fam­ily days to this wo­man who proved her mettle through chil­dren, grand­chil­dren and great-grand­chil­dren. 

She was at her best with the very young. My sweetest memor­ies are of Mom lean­ing down to hug a great-grand­child, kiss a chocol­ately face, rock a cry­ing baby to com­for­ted sleep.

I know what those days meant to her in her last years, the ones when I could  read the look on her face as she tried to “freeze” time with this brand new gen­er­a­tion she ad­ored — savored the mo­ments, be­cause she knew, bet­ter than we did, how fleet­ing they are. 

I wish I could have seen to it that Mom had more time with her be­loved grand­daugh­ters, each of them end­lessly fas­cin­at­ing to her. She was in­sa­ti­able when it came to news about them, and we could nev­er, ever cure her of her shame­less brag­ging.

How I would love to have giv­en her the joy of a per­fect sun­rise in a faraway place, a piece of mu­sic so beau­ti­ful that it would make her cry, a walk on a beach and a dip in the ocean she used to love so much.

I would surely have giv­en Mom the bless­ing of per­fect health, and a body that didn’t be­tray her. I would have chased away the arth­rit­is that settled in like an un­wel­come house­guest and made her fin­gers and back feel like ali­en strangers. 

I would have ban­ished forever the lymph­oma that ul­ti­mately took her from us. 

I would have giv­en my moth­er more people in her life, par­tic­u­larly in those last years. Too many friends were gone, and many were too frail to do the things they once did to­geth­er. 

I re­mem­ber the day Mom told me, with an at­tempt at non­chal­ance, that she had be­come too un­sure of her foot­ing to take long walks in her be­loved Phil­adelphia, the city where she’d lived for all of her years. 

What she didn’t say was that she also was afraid, now, of the streets that had be­come so mean.

How I wish I could have spared my moth­er the feel­ing of cap­tiv­ity in her high-rise apart­ment build­ing where she had surely mem­or­ized every de­tail of wall­pa­per pat­tern and weave of car­pet. I would have taken away those days that were empty, and nights that were long.

 I would have vis­ited her more, taken her to more doc­tors’ ap­point­ments, more shows, more gar­dens, more parks. 

I would have hugged her more. 

I would have told her of­ten how im­port­ant she was in my life, and how a part of me will al­ways be miss­ing without her. 

Per­haps there nev­er really was any way, ever, to thank my moth­er for lov­ing me like no one else ever has.

But I can still hope that some­how, she knew it. ••

Reach Life colum­nist Sally Fried­man at pin­eg­ander@aol.com

You can reach at pinegander@aol.com.

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