July 25th came and went. But not unnoticed. Twenty years of missing someone makes it difficult to not remember. Twenty years of “I wonder what she..” and “I wish she could…” and twenty years of “She would love…”.
Just more of the same really.
I see my four beautiful children and wish with every fiber of my being that my mom could see each one of them. And after 15 years, this isn’t really anything new either. My mom would love Taylor’s heart and her people-pleasing desire. She’d help hone in Taylor’s artistic ability. She’d be the loudest, most embarrassing whistler at every sporting event, and would watch even if it meant she had to stand in pain. She would encourage Bryce’s closet-love of musical instruments and would give him countless stories that attests to the don’t-underestimate-me-being-small world they both lived. Brenden and Taylor would get the best relationship and life advice. And Harley would be her side kick, no doubt, and would already know how to play the guitar.
My Gosh she would love them.
And then my thoughts shift to myself and what I’ve done with the last 20 years of my life. Twenty years. Two decades. Nearly 2/3 of my life I’ve lived without her. Without her advice. Without her encouragement. Without her support. I graduated high school and put myself through college as a single parent of 2 little girls. I followed my dreams and built my career based on my passion. I’ve created a home that my four kids love to be in along with their hordes of friends. I am married to my soulmate whom I found down the darkest road I traveled.
Life without her has been hard. Time and time again I’ve struggled with the void in my life, and in my soul, where she would be. As lucky as I am to have great women fill the role of my mom, the emptiness remains pulling inside my heart.
It’s difficult not to think about how different my life would be if she were still here. I would have gone off to college and chased my dream in the arts before becoming a mother. I would have sought (and listened to) her amazing advice on relationships which would have never led me down the dark path that I chose. I would have lived more freely and traveled the world with her. The person I would have become would not be the same person I am today.
Just more of the same, really.
And like a road map, these thoughts always lead me home. To here. Right here, right now. Today. And while I may not be teaching third grade, she would be so proud of my career and what I have built with my own blood, sweat and tears. Oh my gosh, so proud!! And without walking down those dark alleys of relationships, I wouldn’t have these beautiful children that she would marvel over. And without those same relationships I wouldn’t be the supportive and loving wife that I am today. And like the sunrays falling on my face, she would be beaming with pride.
And somewhere in my thoughts of today, it became different this year.
I was Taylor.
It was the summer between my freshman and sophomore year. I had no driver’s license. I was a year into a serious high-school romance. I had no children or even a real job….although I did love being a lifeguard. I had no concept of this world and had little understanding of independence. I didn’t know how to balance a checkbook or even get grass stains out of jeans.
So many times over the last few weeks I’ve caught myself staring at Taylor….struggling with thinking about me at that age and what I was going through as a motherless daughter. I was so lost and felt so alone. I had no idea what I was suppose to do because there was no one there to tell me to do it. My life had a violent shove into the Real World and I literally grew up overnight. I learned by trial and error how to correctly do the laundry, how to manage my time, and what (and who) I was responsible for.
I look at Taylor and wonder, have I done my job as a mom of trying to prepare her for this world? If, heaven forbid, I am gone, will she be ok? Am I doing a good job of readying her to be an adult? I mean, she knows how to get grass stains out of jeans. But what about her independence? Is she strong enough? Tough enough? Does she know me, I mean, really KNOW me…not as her mother, but as a strong, independent, compassionate woman? Does she know my life story and how I got here?
And this is where I find myself in unfamiliar territory. Up until this point, I had someone to compare myself to as a mother. I could look at her as if she were a mirror — a place I could go to get a benchmark of my progress as a mother. I could always answer the question “how did my mom do it with me?” But now….now that mirror is gone. There are no more comparisons…no one to stack myself up against, no benchmark. I will teach my children to drive my own way. I will help them learn the ways of the adult world by my own experiences and advice. And while my way of getting grass stains out of jeans may not have been my mother’s way, my kids will still be armed with the tools.
And even though I will have my own way of teaching, of parenting, I will still be influenced by her…the way I always have. I will continue carrying her legacy of being an open-minded, fun-loving, connected mother. And while I may still be a motherless daughter with nothing tangible to compare myself to, I still have a vision of what I imagine her to be. Even to this day.
The same mom, but different.