Pia Savage
Source: Pia Savage

She was my friend. The friend I could count on to tell me the truth but to say it so nicely a criticism would sound like a compliment.

I don't know how she did that. It was one of the things that made my mother singular and special.

She left the real criticisms to my father who could be meaning to tell you that you were the most beautiful, brightest, special person in the world but somehow it would come out that if you only did this, that and something else you might be in contention for being thought something better.

Fortunately I mastered daddy–speak by the time I was 25. I thank my mother for that.

I thank her for encouraging the friendship my father and I shared. We could have only had that friendship if my mother had been secure in our friendship and she was.

I thank my mother for encouraging me to run, not walk, toward independence. Only now do I realize how hard it must have been to watch your 20 year old daughter go to Europe and Israel for an indefinite period with an open ticket that let her explore many countries for as long as she wanted.

I always knew that my parents wanted to catch me when I fell but knew that in order for me to get up and grow I had to fall—many times.

And by doing that they ensured that I had a safe harbor to return to. I'm not sure that my father ever really understood but my mother—oh did she.

And when I became an adult she could tell me her problems. She knew that like her I was a better listener than I was an advice giver. Really most of us just want somebody to listen.

When I went to grad school at a time that seemed late in life to me then; she encouraged me. And when I finished a paper I would call her and read it. The entire paper—no matter how long.

If she asked questions I knew I should do one of three things: do nothing—she was just curious about something; clarify a point; or rewrite. She would never tell me what to do. That wasn't her style.

God I miss her. When she died I felt adrift and alone. Her death just happened to coincide with "America's greatest tragedy," and a low point in my own life.

It took me years to get over the anger. People say that happiness is a choice. One we can all make. For some of us that is the meanest, nastiest statement ever.

We can choose to smile, yes. We can can choose to show a front to others, yes. We can choose to surround us (if we're so lucky) with loving, caring people. We can choose to eat right and exercise.

But can we always choose to be happy? No and I so wish I had known that after my mother's death.

I felt like a failure who was miserable and had no right to be.

People had lost their kindergarten classmates and third cousins in the attacks. They were encouraged to show their feelings.

I was told I lost an old lady, to "think of all the young people who had died." I know I have said that before but you can't imagine what that did to me.

Grief isn't measurable. Grief can't be quantified.

I didn't have to be happy then. Actually it would have been sick had I been happy.

I tried to focus on others but because my grief wasn't acknowledged there was no way I could focus on others. I'm sorry. I'm not that good a person.

Six years later I learned about nonverbal learning disorder (NLD). I wish my parents had been alive as it explained so much. They weren't so I had to go through my NLD journey with friends who were wonderful. But they weren't my parents.

I wouldn't have wondered so much about how NLD affected me or gotten every darn symptom.

I can see my mother laughing (very very hard) and my father looking perplexed (his oft—used expression) when I announced that I was literal. 
 

"You. You really think you're literal?"

She would have sputtered that out as people who see the absurd in everything generally aren't literal. I mastered metaphors in elementary school as she would have reminded me. There's so much she could have helped me with.

My father had good reason to call her "the psychologist." He also called her "the drill sargent," which I had to be an adult to really get. She was the beat to whom he marched.

I would be lying if I said I miss my mother everyday now. Every other day is the reality.

And weeks like this. All week.

Weeks when women like I who have no mothers, no children, no partners are supposed to be happy for every mother.

We're not supposed to feel sad or if we do we're supposed to be very very quiet and put on that happy face.

It's hard when every commercial celebrates the commercial side of Mother's Day. It's hard when more and more women act as if Mother's Day isn't a Hallmark holiday but the most important day of the year.

Yet I understand why they think that way. Being a mother, a good mother, is hard work. When your child is grown and doing well you want to celebrate. Apparently some need to celebrate loudly and/or to tell non—mothers to keep our heads down, and give them the glory.

Yet Mother's Day isn't as hard for me as it was the first ten years after my mother's death. Ironically I was suffering the loss of my fertility at the same time. Always before I had thought: "if I ever find out what my problems are caused by, maybe...." Obviously can't do that anymore. And I mourn that knowledge just a tiny bit.

I have relearned to be happy.

 Happiness has become a choice through the haze of time, the clarity of modern meds, and the realization that I have a very good life filled with wonderful people.

I would never tell people to choose happiness if they are going through horrible personal times. I would never tell a woman to be happy for others until she is ready. She will know.

I am happy for every mother; for every woman who has a live child who cares.

But please don't ask me to do anything on Sunday except binge watch Netflix. Please!

About the Author

Pia Savage

Pia Savage is a writer, journalist, and former social worker diagnosed with Non Verbal Learning Disorder.

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