I hate the card isle. It’s been a source of anxiety for me since I was a child trying to find a mother’s day, birthday or Christmas card that didn’t say what wasn’t true, but was neither insulting. Sometimes, I could manage to pick a card by visualizing its insides dripping in sarcasm “Thanks for the Memories” can mean more than one thing – especially if you were raised by my mother. Not sending a card was never an option. My mother literally kept a logbook of people she sent cards and gifts to. If they did not reply with a thank you or add her to their Christmas list, she added them to a running list of uncouth associates – and was very vocal about the names on that list.
As a result, my literal Hallmark Moments are few and far between.
As fate would have it, my birthmother ended up being a serial card sender too. In the beginning of our relationship, her cards came almost weekly. I, in turn, braved the card isle, trying to pick out something appropriate. When Mother’s Day or Christmas rolled around, I found myself in the same awkward position – it isn’t easy finding a sentiment for one’s birthmother. Not even “Thanks for the Memories” works – because there are no memories.
So there I was again, standing in the card isle with my stomach threatening to leap from my body and tears streaming down my cheeks. It had been years since I’d sent a card to either of my mothers. This time, I was not choosing one out of guilt or obligation. I truly wanted my birthmother, who is dying, to receive something from me. But what? Nothing seemed to fit and I hated that more than the thought of her death.
The tears came from the child in me who would just, for once, like to stand in the card isle and know exactly what to do; the child who would like to read one of those syrupy sweet “for my mother” cards and mean every corny word; the child who would like to have a father to choose a father’s day card for. I’ve given up that dream, but part of me still protests.
I knew what I didn’t want to say to my birthmother in her dying days. I didn’t want to address the past. I wasn’t seeking resolution. I wasn’t hoping for some affirmation of love for me, an apology or even a response. I just wanted her to know I was thinking of her and that I was sorry her life was coming to an end.
It took me nearly an hour, but I finally chose a “Thinking of You” card, decorated in delicate looking leaves. It took another four days to add my sentiment and mail it. These would be my last words, ever, to my birthmother. They needed to matter.
Inside I wrote:
I am sorry to hear of the difficulty you are facing right now. I am thinking of you and I wish you peace.