On being a mom, and missing my mom

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By Pamela Brownstein

Two years ago, I was sitting around a bonfire at an oyster roast at a friend’s house in Beaufort when I got an urgent phone call from my dad telling me I had to come to Texas right away because my mom, who was in the hospital after having a brain tumor removed, had fallen asleep and did not wake up. They had her on life support so we could all see her and say goodbye one last time.

The hours, days, weeks after my mom’s death seem surreal even today. Blurry, yet etched so clearly in my mind.

“Every night after and every day since,

I find myself crying when the memory hits.

Sometimes it knocks me down, 

Sometimes I can just push it away. “

Those are lines from a song called “Through my Prayers” by my favorite band, The Avett Brothers.

I thought after two years it would be easier, but it’s so much harder, especially when I look at my baby boy. Now that Wolfe’s 9 months (oh, where does the time go?) watching him grow has been so amazing, and I want to document all his “firsts” — first word, first step, first time eating a banana — and in the process, I realize I don’t know the age that I was when I met these mini-milestones.

I instinctively reach for the phone to call the only person who remembered and celebrated all the little moments in my life. I still have to remind myself that my mom won’t answer. Even after two years of not hearing her voice, it’s like I still can’t believe she’s not here. Rationally, I know it. But emotionally, I haven’t fully accepted that my wonderful, amazing, beautiful mother is not here to hold her grand baby and to help me during these important times.

Through many conversations with friends and family breaking down about how life is not the same without her, I realized that what I miss most is her unconditional support and encouragement. I have that from many other people in my life, but my mom was always my biggest fan and cheerleader, and she believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. And to not have that now when I have no idea what I’m doing as a parent is super tough for me.

With another birthday of mine fast approaching, I find myself already unwilling to accept my age, and becoming terrified of facing my own mortality. What if I die, will Wolfe know how much I love him? Am I making good decisions to ensure that I’ll be here and healthy for him as long as I can? Will he know who I am as a person and how much I want the best for him? How I’m always late for everything and like to laugh, just like my own mother?

We took Wolfe to visit my mom’s grave in Sea Pines on Hilton Head, and I cried the whole time because I’m mad at her for missing the joy in his eyes, for not being able to see his adorable Halloween costume or to hear his belly laugh. But now I know it’s my job to remember all these special baby times because it’s my turn to be someone’s biggest fan. And I also feel responsible to make sure I don’t forget all that my mom loved and taught me, so Wolfe will know her too.

It gives me hope that she lives on through him.