In honor of my mom this Mother’s Day, I will read Bossypants by Tina Fey.
Not because she was bossy (even though, in her pre-retirement life as a school secretary, she could definitely BE bossy!). And also, not because I am bossy (even though I am).
My stolen copy of Bossypants has been perched on my living room shelf for nearly three years. Just sitting there, with my collection of much-loved volumes or, in some cases, the pieces that I promise myself I will get to “someday.”
This book, though, holds special meaning. It’s hard to imagine it, with the silly cover featuring Tina with a pair of hairy man-arms-and-hands growing from her body. But yes, indeed, it’s special. That’s because, in Mom’s final weeks, reading to her was one of our favorite ways to spend our days. And our last book of choice was Bossypants.
Next month will mark 36 months since Mom moved into Glenwood Gardens, a nearby skilled nursing facility, where Mom was cared for in her final days. GG became my second home. For six weeks in the summer of 2014, I spent hours each day (and often, the night) camped out in Mom’s room—keeping her company, translating the medical-speak for her, managing her visitors and guests, and soaking up what I knew were the last days we would have together.
When I had my first baby, Aunt Faye gave me a book called “Love You Forever.” 24 years later, I still have the book…but I could only read it that first time. (If you’re a mom whose read this book, you’ll know what I mean.) To summarize it, the book is about the life-cycle of a mother-child relationship. We moms start out loving on our babies from day-one, and (if we’re lucky) life comes full circle and our “babies” love on us at the end of our lives. I only read the book one time because 1) The message stuck the first time; 2) I couldn’t read it without crying. Thinking about my relationship with my babies, but also thinking about my relationship with my mama, too, in the context of this book, was a tearjerker for sure.
When we settled Mom in at GG for what would be the last six weeks of her 70-year life journey, I wanted to do everything possible to bring her joy. Whether it was bringing her a nectarine to satisfy a craving, pushing her in her wheelchair to enjoy a morning by the water fountain outside, or…our favorite…reading to her.
We read a lot in those last weeks. A book about the life of a World War II pilot, which happened to be written by my dad’s former boss (who was residing down the hall from Mom, by the way). The daily newspaper. A random magazine. And Bossypants, permanently borrowed from the collection of books in the lobby at GG.
If you’ve read Bossypants, you’ll know it’s a little different from Love You Forever. First of all, it’s hilarious. And if there was anywhere we could use a laugh now and then that was surely the time. Secondly, there MIGHT be some bad words in it. It’s not necessarily the book you would think of when choosing something to read to your mom!
I often wondered what Mom’s neighbor in our shared room thought about our choice of literature, and even though I dropped my volume during the saltier parts of the book, I didn’t censor it at all because reading this book (ok, any book) to Mom always brought a smile to her face.
For the first time in three years, I took Bossypants off my shelf this morning. I see that we hadn’t gotten as far as I was thinking; the napkin bookmark shows we weren’t even to the half way point. We had so much left to read together.
As we approach my third Mother’s Day without Mom, I find myself thumbing through some of my favorite memories with her. We had some good ones. Today, I will crack open the last book we shared together, and I will laugh in honor of her.