May 7th, otherwise known as today, is my mother's birthday. When you lose a parent, and the calendar pages tumble over the days year after year, there is a tremendous tide, a flood of past and present, and tense. And questions. Was it her birthday or is it her birthday? The stumble over past tense and present is an enormous obstacle.
I believe that I will say that the 7th of May is her birthday. It is the date that will forever be the day she was born, always be celebrated in the present, whether she is still alive or not, and I will always celebrate this day as my mother's birthday.
My mother had big white teeth and an enormous smile. She earned a four-year degree in Economics, in three years. From Vassar. The woman did not mess around. She was both graceful and athletic, had long and lovely fingers and beautiful muscular legs. As her daughter, I envied her legs and that grin of hers. I envied her Chanel red lipstick, her No. 5 perfume, and her beautiful face. But to her, her legs were too muscular and her teeth were too many. My mother also suffered from depression. She was intelligent, athletic, charming, flirty, powerful, graceful, loving, difficult, kind, brilliant with numbers, and a hard act to follow. She was human... and, my Mom. She was oh-so-smart, and oh-so-difficult, but also so easy to love, so very easy to love. I never heard my name spoken as musically as when she said it out loud. It is true that I've never loved another as I loved my father but it is also true that I've never known anyone as amazing as my mother. On my best days, my shining days, I am but half the woman she was. At my lowest points, my worst times, I only begin to understand the troubles she rose above. And I understand and admire her all the more, embrace her, for I understand the mountains she climbed.
Elizabeth Oxholm Groth was a beautiful woman, at times a happy woman. I'd like to think that she spent more time being happy than being depressed, but I'll never know that truth. She was a force to deal with, a mind to discover, a cunning opponent with a wicked and dry sense of humor. She was a fighter, outgoing and resilient. She was a survivor. An extraordinary mother and friend. She was an incredible negotiator and had a knack for putting you in your spot. She was proper and correct, full of manners and grammar and Latin vocabulary, full of style and composure, and she knew when to speak and when to keep her mouth shut. She also knew when to wink. She was an equestrian, a hockey player, a tennis player, a business woman, a mother, sister, daughter and lover. She suffered from depression and regret, from decisions made that she would never be able to reconcile. She struggled, my mother did, but she never quit fighting for her sanity, for her faith, her husband, her children, herself. She was a difficult puzzle to comprehend, a solid ally, a glorious beauty to discover, a loyal wife, mother and friend.
We were never closer than when I escorted her through the years to her death, than the hours upon hours we spent with Winnie the Pooh, the spoon-fed meals, the dreams, the touches, snuggles and kisses. It was a long road we traveled, a long walk, a painful yet precious path. It was a glorious time nonetheless. And she, she was an absolute beauty during the journey, the journey of our lives together. A beautiful journey it was. From beginning to end.
Happy birthday, Mom. I love you, as I did then, as I did yesterday, do today and will tomorrow, as forever.