My mom was never one for giving stellar advice. I could probably count on one hand the times she evoked her wisdom. One time I asked her what childbirth was like, to which she responded, “It’s like you have to take a big dump that’s going to kill you.”
My sister and I would laugh at that thinking she was ridiculous. Until we became mothers. Or the time when we were out clothes shopping when I was a teen and I pointed out a top that I liked and she said, “You wouldn’t fit one boob in it.” I certainly grew up with a dearth of hearty, loving advice. However, I still feel like my mom could have passed down some real wisdom to me before she left this earth.
Now that I am in my early forties, physically things are starting to change and I wish my mom would have told me. When I was little, I remember my mom spending inordinate amounts of time in the bathroom with her tweezers looking in the mirror, but it never dawned on me until the last year or so what my mom was actually doing. She could have sat me down and said, “Honey, we need to talk about facial hair in your forties.” The only advice she did give me about my forties was that I needed to beware of migraines because she and my aunt suffered from hormonal ones. I’d never had a migraine in my life, but I did shortly after she said those words. I was sure she had jinxed me somehow.
Now that I am in my forties, I’ve experienced the ravages of ridiculously long, irregular menstrual cycles that brought me to my knees with anemia. It seems like I just had my kids and now I am starting down the road to perimenopause. It’s too soon! Why didn’t Mom tell me this? Mom, too, had problems of her own. Her uterus prolapsed in her fifties and she had a hysterectomy. Why didn’t she warn me that I was headed down the highway of messed up periods and hormonal fluctuations, the likes of which I could never have imagined?
And don’t get me started on sneezing while standing up or coughing while sitting down. Forget going on a trampoline with your kids. I had to find these lessons out the hard way. After birthing three kids, my bladder is not what it used to be. She could have started the conversation out like, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about prolapse and urinary incontinence.”
Dryness? My mom bought eye drops by the truck full. I figured this was something that was singular to her as she had medical issues. But now I know the lovely splendor of “dry eyes due to age,” as my optometrist pointed out. A little heads up from Mom would have been helpful.
Or the appearance of crocodile skin that my kids would call “leathery” when they hold my hand. If she could have warned me ahead of time that all of this would happen, I think it might have made the swallowing of the “you’re getting old” pill easier. At least I’d like to think so.
I remember as a kid crawling into bed with my mom while she was reading the newspaper. I always vied for her attention. I’d ask her questions and she’d tell me to stop talking. “This is my quiet time,” she’d say. I was resentful that she never took the time to pay attention to me. It wasn’t until recently when my son opened my bedroom door for the twelfth time, as I was relaxing watching television before drifting off to sleep, that I remember my mom saying “this is my quiet time.” In fact, I now tell my kids this when they barge into my room at night. I have come to understand the sacred place at the end of the day for a mother. Those blessed last moments that are all mine and no one else’s. I can watch TV without anyone interrupting or read a book quietly. She could have told me all this.
She could have told me how ridiculously short the days are with your children. How they literally grow up before your eyes. Even though it seems the whole world tells you this, it would have been nice to hear her say it. That you could never possibly love humans as much as your own but still be incredibly scared wondering if you are raising them properly or if you’ve let them know everything they need to know before they leave the nest. Or that when most of your older family members have passed on and your generation is left in charge that it can feel lonely and isolating, but that you need to soldier on as best you can.
Perhaps she just wanted me to experience the splendors of aging for myself. Maybe it was her last little joke. Or maybe she prepared me enough for life and knew I could handle it on my own.
But because I don’t want my daughter to be caught with wet pants when she’s forty-something, I will be sure to have that talk with her.