It's true. I'm blessed with an amazing "real" mom. But I've been guided and comforted by many other moms, too.
There was Debby, the woman I worked with in college, who drove me home - completely out of her way - when it was really cold. And Mylene, the coworker at my first job in a big city, who took me under her wing - and then freakin' helped me move out of a very bad situation. And Lynn, who took one look at me and knew I could use a funny and kind friend. All such important mothers.
Growing up, I had Marsha. She was BFF's mom, and her house was always open. She and her husband were the kind of folks who never carpeted their family room, so the kids could hang out there and not have any worries.
Marsha had a huge laugh and was always going off on an adventure. She biked across Iowa and then around the Netherlands three times. She broke her wrist learning how to rollerblade when she was … a lot older than I am now.
Marsha passed away a few weeks ago.
It wasn't unexpected, and it was in many ways a relief. Alzheimer's is the worst, worst, worst.
I was so focused on being present and strong for BFF. We cleaned out her mom's room at the care center. We joked about all the casseroles and all the folks stopping by the house.
Our posse did shots in the bathroom of the funeral home.
We climbed to the top of the rocket slide in the city park late at night, still dressed up from the visitation.
It was OK.
And then the morning of the funeral, as a dear friend and I were walking towards the church? I saw the hearse. And I turned away and said, "Hold on - I need to stand here and lose my shit."
They were going to take Marsha away. I'd seen her. I knew she was gone. But a hearse? A hearse made it real. So I stood on a sidewalk and made guttural noises into a dainty handkerchief.
We all need a mom, and I have been fortunate to have many good ones.
At the funeral luncheon in the church basement, I sat with BFF's brother. We hadn't seen each other in at least 15 years. He said he was surprised to learn I didn't have kids.
"Well, things didn't turn out the way I planned," I said. And then some spirit took over my body and I continued, "But this way I get to focus on being the best aunt. And we all have many mothers, and I get to be a surrogate mom to the people around me. Like your mom was for me."
Yes. Just like that.
I promise to pay it forward, Marsha. Thank you.