The Best Mother
(Key West, FL)
My mother, Betty, passed away in 1980 at the age of 78. My father had died a few years earlier. As an only child, I, her daughter, was devastated by her passing. I felt so empty. My first thought was, "Now I have no one who cares about me. No one to be proud of me when I talk about my successes or to hurt with me when I am sad." The worst part of losing her was that I am haunted by not taking her on a cruise to Alaska, a request she made to me not long before she died.
She and I were having lunch together when I was visiting her in the Northeast where she lived in a senior citizens' village. I, on the other hand, had made a life for myself in the southernmost point of the United States. When my father was alive, she traveled quite a bit with him in a group with her friends and their husbands. I guess she was trying to bring back the good times they had all shared by asking me to take a trip to Alaska together with her. At the time she mentioned it, that never crossed my mind. All I could think of were excuses as to why I could not make the trip. I could not get away from my job. I had absolutely no desire to go to the wilds of Alaska. I hated cruises because I always disliked being on the water.
All these thoughts were running through my head. I looked at her across the dining table as she smiled with anticipation. When I told her I would think about it, she seemed satisfied, even though I knew I was lying and would never bring it up again. Knowing my mother, I knew she would not mention it either, leaving the decision entirely up to me because she would not want to intrude in my life or my plans.
I never mentioned it again and neither did she until one day several years later. By then I knew she was having health problems and, feeling guilty about never taking her on the Alaskan cruise, I told her we should plan the trip but she simply said that it was not a good time. In my heart I knew she was saying that she was too ill to make it, and I knew I had offered it because I was trying to assuage the guilt I felt at not doing it when she was well.
She died soon after and I am haunted by that unfulfilled Alaskan cruise. The worst part of it is that she was a person who did everything for everyone, especially for me. It did not matter if it meant sacrificing her time or giving up what she planned to do for herself. Even after I married and divorced, she was there for me always. And I had not given her last heart's desire to her. Mom, I am so sorry.