Sunday, May 9, 2010


When I think about Mother's Day, I am torn between my memories of our daughters and their home made cards, breakfast in bed and mimosas made by Glenn, and my memories of Bettie Dietel Collis.

I thought my mother was a queen. To me she was elegant and beautiful. I wondered at times how she ended up in such an ordinary life. I could see her sitting on the cote d'azur, with a long tall drink in her hand, being waited on by tanned waiters with admiring glances.

A child's view of their mother can erase all the blemishes, leaving only the golden image of perfection, we know doesn't really exist. I know my mother had her insecurities. For example, she used to say she would have liked to open a dress shop, but she didn't think she was smart enough. She would say she couldn't cook very well, and then turn out a meal fit for a king. Her insecurities stopped her from venturing beyond the comfortable.

She put her family before herself.

As a trusting and loving Mom, she became the target of a few of my brother's practical jokes, like the boa constrictor in her lingerie drawer, or when she had her hair dye on, in the middle of the kitchen, how he yelled out "MOUSE!" to leave her screaming and leaping steps to the top of the sofa, blue dye flying to the ceiling, totally dissolved in tears.

She was wise at times. She could always catch me in a fib. I got caught a lot! Like the time I insisted I hadn't broken into the house (when I had). She told me the police had come and taken finger prints and they would know who broke into the window. Slowly she wore away at my transparent denial until I collapsed under the pressure.

She would tell me I was talented. Ironically her example helped create some of my own doubts and self effacing tendencies. But it was her example I held close when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. My mother spent the 11 months she had after her cancer diagnosis taking care of her family. She wanted to be sure everyone was alright. The night before she went into the hospital for the last time, she made meat loaf for my father and brother and sister.

Her strength taught me a lot, but her insecurity taught me a lesson too. She never questioned her doctors. She would have thought it rude. I went with her to her chemotherapy appointments and the doctor didn't much care for my interference. One time in particular I questioned a drug he was using. At the time I worked for Merck who was the maker of that drug. I had actually checked with the person who developed the drug to see if the use was appropriate. He assured me the dose should have been lowered long before. I asked my Mother's doctor about it and he brushed the idea off. I asked my Mom to go to outside for a moment. "it seems you don't know this woman. Her name is Bettie Collis. She doesn't know how to complain. But I have seen her and she is in immense pain. I am asking you to consider what the developer of this drugs has to say." "You sound just like a first year medical student he said......dismissing me." A week later she was dead, partially from a side effect of that drug. Yes, I learned the lesson, always question your doctors until you are convinced you and they are on the right track. I learned when you are sick, it is ok to ruffle a few feathers.

From Bettie Collis, I learned that you stand up straight, but don't hold your shoulders up about your ears. I learned that you don't walk like a duck or a horse because you are a woman. I learned I was the moon and the stars and everything bright and beautiful. When I see a commercial that is particularly emotional... I think of how many of those she would cry about. Or how she would break into tears when she saw a little old lady on the street with a hunched over back."They are all by themselves," she would worry. On these holidays I think of how much children were robbed of the warm glow they would have felt being in her presence. I think of how she would have loved them, and how happy she would be that I found a fine man in Glenn.
I miss her. I miss her everyday.

And on Mother's Day I only hope I have been 1/4 of the Mother she was to me.


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