Those who know me know that, throughout my life, I never called my mother nor my father “Mom” and “Dad”. I always called them by their first names, “Pat” and “Eric”. It shocked my friends the first time I called up to my parents in their company. “Hey, Pat!” They could not fathom how they could possibly get away with such a thing. It took me a little while to realize just how unusual that was.
Because it was something that never came up. Once, when I asked my parents about why they never made me call them Mom and Dad, the best answer I got was that they felt that the only way they could do this is if they called themselves “Mom” and “Dad”, and what unfolded was like something out of a scene from the Beverly Hill Billies. “Ma!” “Yeah, Pa!” “Let’s go visit cousin Ethel!”
It was unusual, though, as I learned when, without really trying, we convinced my daughters to call me Dad and Erin Mom. I’ve even used the phrase “Mom” to refer to my mother-in-law Rosemarie.
Do I regret this? To some extent I do. A small extent. Because the truth is, I didn’t have to refer to my mother as “Mom”. She knew who she was.
She put band-aids on my scrapes and bruises. She comforted me when I cried. She was my cheerleader, and she was my mentor. And if I was in the wrong, she was my nemesis. Though I feel that I learned enough quickly enough that she was never my nemesis for long. She walked me to school. Nagged me to do my homework, and shared in my victories.
And she asked for my advice when she was writing a story that eventually became “The Spiral Maze”. She valued my input as she worked on other tales as well. And she returned the favour, proofreading my stories, catching my typos. Her colleagues at the University of Waterloo called her the best proofreader they’d ever seen, and an editor’s editor, and I was grateful that she lent her skills to my work.
She respected my writing enough that she didn’t refrain from constructive criticism, but she never stood in the way of what I wrote. She offered great advice, and with Erin, helped make my writing better.
She was also a fantastic grandmother to Vivian and Nora as well. She gave so much of her love and her time, knitting for the girls, and trying to teach them how to knit. She read and wrote for Nora, who loved her dragon stories. She read Terry Pratchett to Vivian. They miss her greatly. She knew who she was to them as well, though they reminded her constantly by calling her “Grandma Pat”.
I knew my mother loved me, loved Erin, and loved my daughters. I took great comfort in that feeling. I did not call my mother Mom as much as perhaps I should, but she knew who she was.
I still wish that I’d had more time to let her know that I knew too.