Jen Ryan / Anne Ryan
It hadn’t fully sunk in that my mother was a woman with thoughts, feelings and moments in time before I existed, with complexity that overflowed from her cup. Truthfully, it wasn’t until weeks ago, deep in the throes of my baby’s chickenpox (yes, this is still a thing), when it dawned on me that—holy sh*t—my mother wasn’t my mother first. She was my mother, in addition to everything that came before me.
As the battle with chickenpox commenced at my house, Lysol in hand and Purel at the ready, my first-born son couldn’t help himself from being well within the personal bubble of my blister-ridden 7-month-old. Climbing, kissing and pawing his way to his brother’s side only instilled the circular thought of waiting for the next shoe to drop. It was only a matter of time, in my doomsday prediction, that we’d all come down with this ailment—one that seems akin to cholera on the Oregon Trail. Even in taking my baby to Children’s Hospital, you would’ve thought he had the bubonic plague while they quarantined him to a room at the far reaches of the building, as if half of the staff had never seen his rash before.
My mother has always been my medical proxy—my purveyor of all things knowledge, always ready to further expand my take on the world. She’s cool and rational, somewhat blunt, carrying the weight of burden as she moves about the room. A phone call in, and she’s there on speaker with, “what now?” as my beautiful firstborn was the kicker of drama in my parental windfall. Born at 31 weeks premature, and requiring a myriad of special attention ever since (now, more emotional attention than anything), it’s been a roller coaster ride to say the least, and she’s fielded phone call after phone call of what-ifs and what’s-next for as long as I can remember.
Booming through the phone, she goes over her day and accounts for my father’s whereabouts, so I know which room of the house he’s taken dominance. This seemingly small aside of her day—mixed into the conversation any time we speak—somehow rings more clearly this time. Knowing specifically where my dad is located in the home has never been something I’ve really asked about and doesn’t really add or take away from any of our conversations. More or less, it’s filler until things really pick up.
During this particular conversation—in the throes of our chickenpox epidemic—things were different. It finally hit me: my mother was in a relationship—for decades. BOOM! And there it was. She continued to talk about walking the dog, how it was in the 60s in Florida (so she had to bundle up), how she was planning to play golf later, and my head spun around the notion that she was more than just my mom. She was, and is, a woman.
There are moments that come and go, and so often I don’t stop to take stock in them. One minute they’re here, and the next, the universe takes hold. I’m fortunate to still have my mother here with me, as I know there are many of whom are not so lucky, but feel all the more fortunate to have this unique opportunity to meet each other for the first time through the written word.
Since both of us have been lifelong journal writers (thanks to the first one she bought me, Christmas of ’89), I’ve asked that she pen alongside me with an account of our lives intertwined. Having lost her own mother at just 17 years young, I’m grabbing hold of the time we have together and detailing an outline of our footprints through life.
Here’s an excerpt from my mother, or, as I should say, Anne:
It is interesting that my middle daughter asked me to put some of my life’s memories in writing. Since I retired two years ago, I have thought quite a bit about my life up to this point. I recently told all of my children that as I look back, I would not have done things differently, but I would have done things better. My only hope is that their memory of me is kindly.
Although brief an introduction, it exists for you now. Our lives, memories to us, yes—but may just end up being your present. Go with us, won’t you?
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