Sunday, May 09, 2010

for Mother's Day

For Mother's Day, we guys are heading out to Shepherdstown, West Virginia to dine at the Bavarian Inn, a spot that Mom enjoyed. I've never been there; the family took Mom out to Shepherdstown while I was in Korea. If the photos on the website are any indication, the Bavarian promises to be quite an experience.

As you can imagine, it's not easy when your recently deceased mother's birthday falls so close to Mother's Day. It wasn't easy when Mom was alive, either: she was fortunate to have two back-to-back celebrations every year. Only rarely did we ever cheat and combine the two days into a single celebration. And now, mere months after Mom's passing, these two dates fly at us in rapid succession, as they will for the rest of our lives.

I confess I never really knew what sort of gifts to get Mom. I often made cards for her, and occasionally cooked for her, but while I was growing up I never had an intuitive grasp of what she would have enjoyed. My brother David has always been more sensitive about that sort of thing. When it comes to gift-giving, my answer is almost always to give someone a book. Mom was never a voracious reader, though; the only things she read with any interest were newspapers and magazines. This was indicative of a huge gulf between us, I think; I never understood what she wanted or liked, and she never got the fact that I was perfectly fine with my books. When Mom was dying, the best thing I could do for her was to be with her, to cook for her, to help her up whenever she fell, to talk to her, to hold her hand, to watch TV with her, and to show her as much care as I could. Even while she was sick, I never figured out what sort of gift she would have appreciated. It was up to the rest of the family to do that.

Perhaps the nicest thing my father ever said to me was that, after all three of us brothers were born, he couldn't imagine a time when we weren't there. A good family is very much like that: there's an irreducible completeness that isn't felt until you try to imagine life without any one of the members of your family. When one member is gone, it's like an amputation. Somehow you manage to function, but the missing member is conspicuous in her absence.

Tomorrow's meal at the Bavarian will doubtless take place at a table large enough to have at least one empty chair. We're going out to celebrate Mother's Day, and that empty space will serve as a reminder of why we're there.


No comments: