On Thursday, early in the morning, my brother and I will text each other, “Happy Birthday Jeri,” as if my mother were still alive. Thursday, August 4th would have been my mother’s eighty-seventh birthday. It’s hard to imagine her as that old as longevity did not run in her family. I like to think her brilliant mind would have remained as sharp as ever, even if her body might have started to give way. And her loving and caring disposition as our mother would not have changed at all, even as the tides had shifted and my brother and I would be caring for her.
My mother was the ballast in the storm that was our childhood. Growing up with an alcoholic father, she was the one who was the buffer between our father and us children, our protector and our shield. I often wonder how often the thought crossed her mind, “What did I get myself into marrying this guy?” She once told me she was attracted to our father by his intelligence, good looks and knowledge of the arts and culture. There were signs he was a heavy drinker prior to their marriage, but she chose to ignore them.
The author’s mother
Source: © Beverly Sklaver
Before she had me and my brother, my mother was one of the few female computer programmers. She worked for the Remmington Rand Corporation and worked on the UNIVAC (Universal Automatic Computer). Computers were her first love and she gave up programming when I was born. My brother followed 18 months later.
When I was 13, my father lost his job as a financial analyst due to his alcoholism, and my mother opened a needlepoint and knitting store in our neighborhood. She kept the store open until my senior year in college when my parents finally divorced. She then went back to school to update her computer skills. She joined a small firm on Long Island that conducted focus groups. At her six-month performance review, when she didn’t get all “excellents,” she quit (now you know where my perfectionism comes from) and opened her own custom software development company which she ran until her death from pancreatic cancer in 2002. The company was highly successful.
When I was at my sickest, with my BPD, depression, and anorexia raging, my mother never gave up on me. She was there with me in the trenches, fighting for me and advocating for me. When the psychiatrist from the long-term BPD unit wanted to discharge me to a state hospital because my insurance had run out and my treatment team felt I was still a danger to myself after 10 months, she stepped in, declaring no child of mine is going to a state hospital. A compromise was reached and I was discharged to a 24/7 supervised residence and a BPD day program.
After she died a friend of hers told me she never stopped fearing I would attempt suicide again and succeed. When she was getting her affairs in order, she purchased the plot next to hers for me. I never figured out if she thought it was because she believed I would end up succeeding at suicide, or if it was because I would never marry. Regardless, I’m glad she was not alive to witness my last suicide attempt in 2014, 11 months after my father’s death. I don’t know how that would have affected her emotionally.
My brother left his job on Wall Street in the late 1990s to work with my mother at her company and he took it over when she passed away and continues to run it today.
I know my mother is watching over me and guiding me, especially as I venture into the entrepreneurship area. One of my biggest regrets is that I never had a relationship with her as an emotionally healthy adult and she never got to see me thriving on a daily basis. When she passed away, I hadn’t yet started to work with my former psychiatrist, Dr. Lev in TFP (transference-focused psychotherapy), the treatment that saved my life and gave me a life worth living.
My brother and I miss having her in our lives for support, for guidance, For that feeling of unconditional love. For a hug. She was my shopping partner, my manicure buddy. I know we feel cheated because she was taken from us at the young age of 67. I was 41 and my brother was 39.
Source: © Photo by Ron Lach | Pexels
Jeri, we love you and will always miss you. Happy Birthday.
Thanks for reading. Andrea
Source: © Andrea Rosenhaft
If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, seek help immediately. For help 24/7 dial 988 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.