The sting and affection of a first Mother’s Day without mom

This will be my first Mother’s Day without my beautiful mom, who died in January at the relatively young age of 74.

I’m an only child. I didn’t meet my father until I was nearly 30, and he died in 2005. So, it was essentially always just mom and me: a two-man army.

Mother’s Day has always been fun. In recent years, as my mom’s health declined, it was spent just hanging around her Pomona home—now my home—with me cooking a simple meal.

I guess it’s too early to tell what I’m feeling. They say there’s this PTSD thing, where your mind stealthily protects you by not allowing you to feel trauma for a while. I don’t know if that’s true for me, but I’ll take it if it is, preferably in small, easy-to-swallow doses.

It’s strange how you sometimes don’t think about something, or even notice it, until it becomes part of your life. When I got cancer in 2007, I suddenly started seeing all these sick people around me. They were literally everywhere, people hobbling, missing limbs, carrying oxygen tanks. And it’s not like they just magically appeared; They’d been there all along.

It took me getting sick to see that so many people were suffering, and they were everywhere. That was a big moment for me. I don’t like what it says about the person I was, but there it is.

As Mother’s Day approached this year, I thought of my friends who have been doing this for years. I’m 53, and these things are just happening, and have been for a while. Our parents are dying. I was thinking about the concept of coping, and posted on Facebook about the idea. The response was immediate and overwhelming. Like 2007 all over again, I learned that people were hurting all around me. It was moving to hear from folks in various stages of grief. Close friends and acquaintances, some more hopeful than others, all had one thing in common: a hurt that ran deep.

The overwhelming sentiment was this: it never goes away, it never gets easier, it only gets “softer,” if that makes sense. And again, I’ll take that.

My hope for all the sons and daughters out there who, like me, are missing their mothers, is that they will be buoyed to know they are most certainly not alone.

And if you’re a mother yourself, then my hope is that you have a wonderful diversion of a day ahead of you. If you’re part of the Missing Mom Club, why not celebrate the mothers in your life, yours or not? Maybe you can cherish your mother-in-law, if that is an option. Or, ring up a friend in the same situation and talk about it. If you’re not the sharing type, or prefer to work your grief out on your own, I can recommend writing as a reasonably effective salve. It’s worked a little for me.

I’d like to say that I’ll be spending Mother’s Day at one of my mom’s favorite spots, reflecting. But I’m not. I’m going to be spending Sunday afternoon doing my other job—playing music—at a dingy bar in downtown Los Angeles. I see how this may appear an undignified celebration, but I know my mom would approve. She was my best friend and biggest cheerleader. She would want me doing my job, and getting on, as long as I stopped by afterward to bring her a taco and talk about the gig. I do wish I could. I guess I always will.

And she’ll be with me Sunday, because no matter what I’m doing, where I am, who I’m with—whether I’m trying to do right by my own kids, I’m writing, singing or eating a taco—it’s always going to be about her. She’s still my advocate, my believer, my mom.

Happy Mother’s Day.

—Mick Rhodes


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