My mother would be seventy-eight today if she was still living. She died at fifty-nine of lung cancer. I cannot think of another individual on this planet with whom I have had as complicated a relationship, nor anyone whose mention stirs a wealth of sadness, anger and devotion.
I would not be here without her but was not always sure that my presence in her life was desired, particularly in the face of our growing differences as I became an adult. While she may have equated some of these with her idea of rebellion, they have remained with me throughout my life and were never a matter of wanting to rankle or displease. It can be difficult cultivating a spirit, personality or worldview in the face of its opposite, particularly when your own experiences of living have been very different to those of your mother.
What she would think about the world today I can only guess. As her only living child, I wish she had made it to old age or taken the chance to make some better choices on her own behalf at earlier points in life. Doing so may have made her a happier person though many people would never know the profound difference between her public life-of-the-party persona and the person she often became behind closed doors.
Now in my late fifties, I sometimes hear her echoed in thoughts, mannerisms, an unerring desire for fairness and my own lack of patience. My love of animals, books, reading and travel were spawned through watching her as a youngster and being given access to all of those things. More reserved and quieter by nature than she, I am also slower to anger and more likely to draw inward than to lash out. Politically and socially, she and I were poles apart as I embraced ideas and activism which were foreign to her and still do.
In honor of her birthday, I have done a variety of things over the years, from donating to literacy organizations to growing out and donating my hair for kids and others affected by cancer or other illnesses. This year, I am donating to a bird sanctuary.
Happy Birthday, Sarah...
November 10, 1938-July 21, 1998