She would have been 77 years old tomorrow. But life ain't fair. So I get a phone call one day saying my mother has a "mass" in her brain. I call my mother. She's all cheerful and says it's the size of a pea, and they're going to take it out, no problem.
Turns out, she lied.
Her name was Billie Jo, and she was 63 when she died. I was 42. Sometimes I wonder if I'd rather she had told me that she had brain cancer and she had about a year to live, or if her trying to protect me (and her other kids) was maybe the right call. Most of that time, I was pretty much in denial about the whole thing. Hell, everybody on that side of the family lives well into their 80s and 90s. My mother can't be dying.
Even when she started having papers drawn up, asking me to sign different things, and insisting relentlessly on a family campout on Galveston Island, one of her favorite places in the world, I still refused to face it. When I got the call at work one summer day that she had died, I didn't know what to do. I hung up the phone, and stepped around the front of my desk to get something off the fax machine. The room spun a little bit, and I felt confused.
Two or three days later, when I stepped into the little country church in the woods near Iola, Texas, for her memorial service, it suddenly became reality. The last time I saw my mother, she was basically in a coma, in a hospital bed, with her right hand clutching the side bed railing. Trying to hold on, it seemed to me. I never saw her after that day. It was a week or so later that my sister had her body cremated before I was able to make the 150-mile trip back down there, so it was like Mama was just gone. Poof!
And when I walked inside that chapel, and saw the table filled with photographs and flowers, I was overwhelmed. My nephew was across the room, sobbing as someone sat with their arm around him, trying to console. I felt a wave of emotion rising quickly inside me, and I felt I was going to lose it. If I started crying, I'd never be able to stop. So I choked it down, pushed it back. No. I can't let it come. I can't handle it; can't control it.
When it came my turn to stand up in front of the service and say a few words about my mother, it took several minutes before I could speak. I'd decided to read a little essay I'd written about her life, and the first words I had to say were her name. It was really hard to say. She truly went away too soon. But life ain't fair.
So, in honor of my mother, I've decided that the anniversary of her birth is a good day to start my "30 days of positive project." I'm not entirely sure that I can accomplish the mission, and so if I dedicate the effort to her, maybe that will help. Also, writing about it may help me hold myself more accountable, as well.
You see, I inherited a number of good traits from my parents, but there was some bad stuff, too. One of those things is pessimism and negativity. I want to be more positive, and feel happier inside. So I've created a 30-day plan to kick-start some new habits.
From my brother, Bobby, I'm borrowing an affirmation and a prayer: "Today is going to be a great day," and "God, help me focus on a positive attitude." These things are said first thing in the morning, and throughout the day, as needed. I vow to not let any negative comment come out of my mouth, to turn negative thoughts into something positive, and to smile more. I don't walk around with a smile on my face. Feels unnatural. Next on the list is to exercise every day, whether that is going to the gym, going for a long walk after work, or playing golf. Then, I will write every day, play my guitar and practice my new saxophone, and meditate for 15-20 minutes.
Thirty days is a long time to keep it all going, but it's also long enough to form a new habit. Wish me luck.
Ciao, y 'all ...