She's gone, but she's still here.
There's a grave in Sheboygan that bears her name, "Irene". Right below it are the years she was born and died.
But Irene is still around..
She died 16 years ago but there isn't a day I don't think of her. She's top of mind each Mother's Day but none of the 364 that surround it pass without me remembering a lesson she taught me, a skill she passed on, an opinion she held or a moment we shared together.
Tying my shoes. Making her "forgotten roast". Squaring off the corners on a freshly made bed. Saying "please" or "thank you". Trusting a first impression. Enjoying sports.
All of that came from mom who pulled double parental duty after my father died when I was 13. She had no job, no money, no insurance (health or life), no savings or inheritance. She couldn't drive. She didn't have a home she could pull equity out of--we rented a flat. As a parent now, I can't imagine how lonely and desperate she must've felt the night we put dad in the ground.
Irene made it happen. She never got rich, but we always had enough, plus a little extra for an occasional pizza. She never went to high school but was one of the smartest people I ever knew. Irene couldn't throw a fast ball or make a tackle but she made sure sports were a part of my life. She told me I had to work if I wanted something. Everything was earned. It would've been that way if she had things to give but the fact was she didn't.
Advice, though, was offered freely and was ignored only at my own expense. She was generous with encouragement, scrimpy with sympathy ("If you want sympathy, look between 'sh-t' and 'sweat' in the dictionary," was one of her favorite sayings).
All those lessons are with me every day. That's why Irene never left.
She's here ever holiday, certainly in spirit and definitely when it's time to share the stories of past celebrations. And, she's here this Mother's Day as we gather again. What she taught me lives on in my own children, as are those things my wife learned from her mother who, like Irene, is gone but still among us.
Sure, it's Mother's Day and Irene isn't around. But she's here each and every .moment of my life. As is your mom, whether she's around to celebrate it or not.
Happy Mother's Day.