Dear Mom…

Mom_Quote

“It takes someone really brave to be a mother, someone strong to raise a child and someone special to love someone more than herself.” This quote encapsulates my mom perfectly and it’s only because of her bravery, strength and love that I am even able to write something this personal. For those of you who know me or used to read GirlsGuideTo, you know that I started it with the hopes that maybe just maybe I’d be able to provide women the reassurance that they aren’t alone. Never did I imagine I would’ve helped hundreds of thousands of women across the world. What you may not know is that when I had the idea to start that website, the one person who empowered me, encouraged me and stood by me during the good, bad and ugly times was my mom. What you also may not know is that the end of GirlsGuideTo coincided with one of the hardest times in my life. Almost four years ago, I was on cloud 9 running my company and traveling home to Chicago a lot for work. During this time I started to notice something was amiss with my mom. Call it a daughter’s intuition but I knew something was wrong. Admittedly, I can be quite stubborn and love being right. For once, I really wish I was wrong because my fears were true. My mom wasn’t okay – instead, she was beginning a battle that none of us were prepared for — her battle against Alzheimer’s. My young, vibrant, intelligent, outgoing mother was embarking on a journey that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It’s four years later, and while she is physically present — the disease has taken her mind — and therefore, taken her away from me, my brother, and all of those who loved her. When I launched this website, I had the same goal as when I started GirlsGuideTo except this time I don’t have that person (my mom) rooting for me day and night like I did before. Instead, I have her wisdom, her lessons, and her story to inspire me. She was passionate in what she believed in, she was fearless and she always found a way to make any hurdle into a trophy. So here I am, for the first time, sharing something on my own website about my life trying to ignore the little thoughts in my head of what if… I’m criticized, ridiculed or laughed at for being this honest — instead, I am trying to emulate my role-model, mentor, and hero like I have since I was a little girl. Even though my mother’s disease has taken away almost all of her, she will always be a part of me. And although she will never read any of this, if given the chance these are the things I would say…

Dear mom,

I know you’re still around but I miss you. I miss who were you were before this nasty disease took away your mind. Yes, you are still physically on this earth but I know you won’t witness the rest of my life with the eyes, ears and brains that made you — you. Although I’m 35 and quite possibly halfway through my life, I am not yet at the halfway mark we thought I’d be at if ever you weren’t around. I’m hoping to fall in love, one day get married, and if I’m lucky enough, to have children, and yet I know the person who I never imagined wouldn’t be by side — holding my hand — won’t be there.

Dear mom,

I miss you. I miss calling you when something good happens. I miss calling you when I have a question or need life advice. I miss calling to tell you the mundane details of my life that only a mom would ever care to hear. I missed you beyond words when I went through a heartbreaking breakup last year. And now mom, I’m single without my guiding light (you) and wondering who I’m going to run to when I meet the next Mr. Wrong, but more importantly, when I meet Mr. Right.  Mom, you knew me best – who is going to prevent me from potentially overanalyzing my next relationship? Who is going to help me decide if I’m dating another jerk or maybe some good guy who’s REALLY a good guy? And if he is REALLY a good guy, who’s going to help me decide if he’s the right guy for me? Remember, we used to say “the one” would have to ask you for my hand in marriage in addition to dad? Now it’s just up to my dad and my stepdad, I guess. And mom, you and I were going to  plan my fairytale wedding one day. Who’s going to help me find a dress? Who’s going to tell me to relax? And who’s going to be there with the biggest smile beaming with pride if it isn’t you?

Dear mom,

Guess what? I moved back to LA. I moved back to the building you loved in the neighborhood you called your home away from home. I wish you could see it. Now I miss you coming to see me in LA and the two of us happily skipping along without a care in the world even though both of us would be consumed with thoughts worrying us. Me, usually about something petty, and you, worried about me. I miss being able to call you anytime, day or night (and during the middle of the night, too) – you’d always answer if you could, especially if it was late and I was calling because I was scared coming home or bored and wanted someone to talk to. I miss those lectures you used to give me weekly – get organized Brette, go to the grocery store, you need to be an adult. You were never impressed with the fact that I went a solid 3 years without a working stove and learned to make egg whites in the microwave. (Luckily, I’ve grown up a lot since these days but still… I miss knowing that only you could find something out of order.)

Dear mom,

I miss coming home to Chicago to visit and finding a fridge full of my favorite foods and even as the disease started, but before it took you away, going to buy scratchers at the gas station. We’d always hope for big money but would be so happy when we won a dollar. I miss you picking me up from the airport and inevitably having a police officer yell at you for one of the many things you would’ve illegally done – you’d always smile and get off the hook. Little did the cop know you were a master at this and somehow a master at miserable driving, too. Your only goal though was to try to race to arrivals where I’d be waiting impatiently in a “mood” – you just didn’t want to be even later. But well — we all knew you were never on time! I’d give anything to have you pick me up late one more time. Instead of being angry though, I’d just wrap my arms around you and tell you thank you and I love you.

And boy, do I miss your cell phone ringing nonstop while the business line and house line rang off the hook — all from people dying to get ahold of you. I realize now, I didn’t want to share you, but how lucky was I to have you as my mother – the incredible woman who everyone had to fight for time with! It used to drive me crazy, but now the silence drives me crazier.

Dear mom,

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. This wasn’t the story we had written. But unfortunately, you got a terribly selfish disease that didn’t give a shit about you, your children, husband and any of the many people who love you. Instead it robbed you. It stole from you your dignity, intelligence, and memories. It stripped away your pride, standard of living, and ability to be my rock, best friend and guiding light. Instead, I am left to fill in the blanks, write my own script in moments I need you most. All I have left is memories of the time we spent together and time —  so much time — to reflect on them. I don’t even have you to share them with anymore.

Dear mom,

You spent most of your adult life trying to protect your kids — almost to a fault. You faced so many challenges in life but you never became bitter. How did you do it? I find myself asking more than I’d like to admit – why you? Why us? Why now? But, then I know you — and you would’ve told me to stop feeling bad, you’d remind me how lucky I am for what I do have and you’d explain that life just isn’t fair sometimes. I do know you’d be so heartbroken to see what has happened the last few years but you’d never let it show. People say your disease is the long goodbye and they’re right. It is painfully long because you watch the layers of this whole, complete person unfold, unravel, and disintegrate. In the beginning, people used to stare at you. Now those who really loved you are scared to even see you. It’s too painful for them. Whereas it hurts me to see these things happen, I know you’d just rationally explain not everyone is as strong as we hope they would be. You’d explain it’s fault in them and that I can’t let their actions hurt me. I’d argue with you and say that you’re wrong. Except now I realize, you are right. We can’t change anyone. We can’t make people love us, we can’t force people to make an effort and we can’t harbor anger about other people’s deficits.

Dear mom,

I miss you. I miss you every second of every day. I’d give anything for just one minute with you knowing today’s date, the President (for better or worse) and truly knowing every nitty gritty detail about me. In an instant you’d always know if I was happy, sad, angry, or scared. It’s like you were part of me, but of course you were! You’d always know when I was being lazy or paralyzing myself because of my insecurities. You’d always know how to get under my skin, make my blood boil, when you’d give me tough love – yet you were the only one who would make me think twice and actually listen to your advice.

Dear mom,

If ever I was granted 3 wishes in life, I’d just want one. I’d just want you back. I’d give anything for another hour with you, and if that clock was ticking down I’d pick your brain and get all the advice I was never prepared to ask – well, because I didn’t think I had to, I didn’t know you’d be gone, a shell of the person you used to be. If I was given a day, I’d give anything to just spend it with you – take a million photos, listen to our favorite songs, and just be with you, as you – my mom.

Dear mom,

You may not be guiding me day-by-day but your disease did affect every aspect of my being. I rarely ever showered you or anyone with lots of hugs and kisses. I was very standoffish but yet I relish the ones I get to give you and literally hold sacred when you give them back. And mom, when you say, I love you back — my heart melts. It’s so painful accepting that memories we make today, aren’t positive. They’re basically just me clinging to something to keep what’s left of you alive. But then again, somehow you’re managing to still teach me even though you’re a shell of who you used to be. I’ve learned so much about patience, I had none before but boy do I have lots now. I’ve learned how important it is to live in the moment and not sweat the small shit because well, when you see a disease like yours you realize none of that shit matters at all! And most of all, I’ve learned about love. You and Kirk (stepdad) may not have had the picture perfect marriage, but you really married a saint because that man kept his promise when he said “in sickness and in health.” His unconditional love, care, patience, and kindness to you is one of the most beautiful versions of love I’ve ever seen. So mom, although so much has been lost — I am eternally grateful for the lessons I have gained. Thank you!

Dear mom,

I know you always told me that family was the most important thing we have in life. I know you always taught me to be grateful, gracious and generous. Although you were always dressed to perfection (as anyone who knew you could attest), you always instilled in me that it was more important that I have more brains than beauty because beauty fades. I know you told me to use my creativity, be nice to others and smile (I think you coined the resting bitch face term before it was trendy because you’d hate my pursed lip look). I know you told me that I always needed lipstick because my lips paled out (sorry still hate it), never cut my hair short and stop wearing hats to hide my face (my collection has tripled in the last year). Two out of three isn’t bad, right? And mom, I know you told me to be confident, to stop doubting myself and believe in myself, and tried to remind me in my weakest moments that I was stronger than I knew. So mom, I’m trying to be strong, I’m trying to make you proud and when it hurts the most – I just try to say thank you for the time I got with you – as every card you ever signed said —  as my #1 fan, best friend and mommy dearest. xoxo Brette

As much as things have changed, the one thing that has remained the same is that I hope I can help at least one woman feel like she isn’t alone by reading something on my website.  Except this time, instead of using other people’s stories to inspire, maybe my own will lift someone up. Maybe, just maybe, something I shared resonates with one of you. Maybe you’ll hug your mom a little tighter. Maybe you’ll get a little less annoyed when she nags you. Maybe you’ll have a little more patience when she is starting to get on your last nerve. Maybe you’ll listen to the advice she gives you a little more. Maybe you’ll appreciate the criticism she gives you, understanding it comes from a good place. Maybe you’ll say I love you a little more often. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll realize how lucky you are to have a mom who’s still around. And if she has passed, maybe you’ll find some comfort knowing that there are others like you struggling with the same void even if it’s a different story. And if you are a mother yourself, maybe, just maybe, you’ll go to bed tonight knowing that no matter the hurdles or hard days, your job is truly the most important in your kids’ lives. Because no matter how old we get, there’s something about a mother’s love that we can’t replace or forget.

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