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As you get older, Mother's Day turns upside down

As you get older, Mother's Day turns upside down

Facing that first Mother's Day after your mother dies.
As you get older, Mother's Day turns upside down
Judy Patrick, Daily Gazette editor, and grandson Caden shortly after Caden's birth in March 2015.

As one Mother’s Day approached back in the mid-1960s, I discovered on the front steps of the 5&10 what I was sure would be a delightful present for my mother.

I was just 7 or 8, and I looked dreamingly at the pink and yellow plastic flowers. Some were on wire stands and decorated with “Beloved Mother” and “Always In Our Hearts” ribbons. Some were in vases you could stick in the ground. My mother could easily put one of those vases out our back door, where she could see it every time she went to the clothesline.

I was pretty pleased with myself the day I finally went to the 5&10 and explained my intentions to the saleslady. She was quiet for a moment and then, with kindness in her voice, said: “That is not something your mother is going to want.”

They were cemetery arrangements and my mother was alive and well, she gently explained. I was stunned. The flowers were so pretty, I told her, that knew my mother would enjoy them anyway. No, the kind lady said, steering me away.

For more than 50 years, I have loved that story in part because it made my mother smile and in part because it showed how silly and innocent I was.

But there’s a hole in my heart this Mother’s Day that’s made me realize why that story really is important to me.

Whether you’re 6 or 60, great joy comes from being able to lavish your mother with something special — be it a dandelion necklace or a dinner out — on Mother’s Day. When your mother dies, as mine did last September, that joy is lost.

Yet a new joy has arrived, a first grandchild who has enchanted me in a way I still don’t quite understand. At just six weeks, cherubic Caden has a mighty voice, a hearty appetite and a tenacious hold on all our hearts.

It is, of course, incredibly sad that this is one great-grandchild my sweet mother will never hold in her arms. She would have loved that. And through the miracle of modern technology, she did get to see a very early sonogram of the little fellow before she died. That was a happy moment.

Life has since become a succession of bittersweet moments: the first time Erica felt the baby kick, Christmas, baby showers, the day Caden was born and now Mother’s Day.

For the past 20 years or so, I would spend time weeding my mother’s flower gardens as my Mother’s Day gift to her. Time, I had figured out by then, was a lot more valuable to her than plastic flowers.

I can’t do that this year. Instead, I’ve potted up some red geraniums and brought them to the cemetery for her. She always loved red geraniums.

But I will be planting flowers, this year with my daughter at her home. After we’re done (and probably before), I will sit in her fancy upholstered rocking chair and hold my dear Caden in my arms.

Life’s transitions are sometimes glorious, sometimes incredibly painful but always unstoppable. Facing them, and embracing them, is all I can do.

Judy Patrick is a daughter, mother and grandmother and editor of The Daily Gazette. You can reach her at [email protected]

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