I don't have many pictures of my Mom. The few that I do have are very old, from my parents' wedding and up to around the time I was a small child. She didn't like to have her picture taken.
She wasn't what would be considered "beautiful", in our beauty-obsessed culture. She was more what would be considered a "handsome woman". She was strong, and sturdy, with a strong nose and wide smile and eyes. She wore plain clothes and no makeup other than lipstick. She was a Mom, and any pretentiousness didn't matter anymore. She had a job to do raising three sons.
She made our lunches, sent us off to school, made us come straight home afterwards, made us do our homework, was a Cub Scout Den Mother, slapped us when we were bad, sang silly songs to us, hugged us mercilessly, made dinners we didn't like (but we never starved), made us hang tinsel on Christmas trees a single strand at a time, kept every single picture we ever drew, gave all my friends rides home from school, held a friend of mine for an hour when her father died of a heart attack at our lake house when she was 12, complimented everyone, had beautiful grey-blue eyes, always apologized when she had been wrong, taught us that you can be mad at someone and dislike things about them and still love them unconditionally, told me I was handsome and made me believe it.
At the beginning of my sophomore year in high school, she found out that she had cancer. It was too late ... it had already spread through her body. She had a mastectomy, then a couple of weeks later had a tumor removed from her spine. She was paralyzed from the waist down after that operation.
A few days before she died, she couldn't speak from the tubes in her throat. She wrote notes to my Dad, who was by her side at every second.
I had always been a sensitive child ... I used to cry when I left the house to go to school when I was in grade school. I would get homesick sleeping at a friend's house for the night. She knew, way back then, that I wasn't like everyone else. I always thought she would hate me because of who I was (even though I didn't really know what "that" meant at the time), but I saw one of the notes she had written for my Dad at the hospital:
"Please make sure Matt understands".
I desperately hope she would be proud of who I am. I miss her like crazy, even 25 years after her death.
Happy Mother's Day, Jeanne Irene Coney R*****. You were always beautiful.