Joanne Palmer: Mothers, without the dot com
October 4, 2011
Before there was Google, Ask.com and Wikipedia, there were mothers.
I grew up in the age before the Internet, and whenever I had a question, I asked my mother, either in person or on the phone — and by phone, I mean a landline.
Laugh all you want, but when I lived off campus for the first time, for the life of me I could not figure out how to cook a baked potato. I tried wrapping them in foil, baking them in the oven for 90 minutes, and rubbing the skins with butter, but no matter what I did, the potato emerged anemic-looking, half-baked and inedible. It never occurred to me to consult a cookbook; instead I picked up the phone and called my mother. She, of course, had the answer. "Put a skewer in the potato. That will conduct heat into it, and it will cook perfectly."
Not only was she right, she immediately mailed me the skewers.
When you lose your mother — as I did last December — there no longer is that person to call. I was completely and utterly unprepared for the feeling of loss and the ensuing sorrow. For 56 years, she'd had my back, protecting and shielding me in that Secret Service kind of way mothers know how to do. For the first time, there is no one "above me," and I have to come to grips with the fact that I am a grown-up.
Most days, the feeling I have is similar to the one I get on a roller coaster just before it plunges down a big drop: sheer terror.
Of course, I've been living on my own for years, making my own decisions, working, paying a mortgage and raising a child.
And yet in the back of my mind, I always knew I could call my mother for advice, to bounce an idea off her or get a second opinion. Even if I didn't like the advice and later rejected it, at least it was there for the taking. And if I ever really screwed up and had no other options, I always could move back home. I underestimated the level of security that provided.
And so, as I walk the dog, I often think about the advice she gave me. Here are five you won't find on Google:
■ "When you have your health, you have everything." This didn't mean much to me when I was younger, but as I get older, I can see she was right. All the money in the world can't buy you good health, and when you're healthy, you should appreciate it.
■ "If you don't open your mouth, you open your pocketbook." This is my favorite. It means to stick up for yourself. Ask for the refund, negotiate the best deal you can and never give up.
■ "You exchange one set of problems for the other." This was her way of saying that life isn't perfect. Even if the grass looks greener, there's still going to be a weed in it.
■ "You don't marry the man; you marry the family." It took me a while to see the wisdom of this, but now I get it. If you don't like your future in-laws, think twice because they will be a bigger part of your life than you can ever imagine.
■ "Fall on your knees and give thanks." Don't take things for granted, and be grateful.
I am grateful I had her as long as I did. If I could email heaven, here is what I'd write:
Thanks for all the advice on potatoes, love and life. Believe it or not, I remember it all. Miss you more than I can say. Love you 10 times a million, bazillion, quadrillion.