Meditation has a funny way of gently prodding all our buried emotions and bringing them to the surface. This morning during my daily meditation my thoughts kept drifting to my mother, now deceased for 10 years. It’s no coincidence that today is her birthday. I have “successfully” buried the pain of my mother’s death for 10 years but this morning it came pouring out. It’s taken me this long to feel like I can process the grief and look with joy at who my mother was, not just to me, but to those around her.
Bernie Sinclair (born Bernadine Matyniak) would have been 96 years old today, and what a 96-year-old she would have been! Forget Betty White, my mom was sharp as a tack and equally witty. That’s her on the right in the photo above with her partner-in-crime, Edna. They were a couple of fun-loving Polish gals growing up in Detroit, in spite of the many hardships they both faced. My mother was one of 11 (or 12?) children who lost both of her parents early on and most of her siblings, as well. As I reflect on this now, her resilience amazes me. Bernie never lost her sense of humor. Just ask her 9 grandchildren – especially Scott, the oldest, who had the good fortune to be born on April Fool’s Day. Not a birthday went by that Bernie didn’t play a trick on her grandson. She was always game for a good time and never let her age get in the way. Here she is at 77 years old with my dad at the wheel getting ready for her very first jet ski ride.
Matt and Bernie. They had been married for 57 years when my dad passed on in 1998. He was gentle and laid back. She was the go-getter. They were two of the lucky ones who managed to reach that milestone together in spite of (or maybe because of) their differences. I think that their greatest achievement together was in their role as grandparents. They loved each of their grandchildren equally, in good times and bad, and never played favorites. They were active participants in shaping the lives of each and every one of them: Scott, Sara, Tracy, Andrew, Kristen, Jennifer, Kevin, Brian and Amy.
Now comes the hard part. Of their four children, my brother Denny, and my sisters Carol and Sue, I was the youngest and without a doubt, the one that caused my mother the most grief. I was the “emotional one”, the bratty adolescent and teen, always writing letters of apology for making her life so miserable. My mother and I were always at odds and yet, the older I got, the closer I became to her. Funny thing, as I was looking through old photos, there were so many of her with her nose in a good book. There is nothing I love to do more than read and one of my first and fondest memories of my mother is going to the public library with her and picking out Madeline for the 100th time. “Don’t you want to try something new?” I remember her saying. I can still recite the entire book, line by line.
Who doesn’t wish they could have one last opportunity to say the things that went unsaid, to ask the questions. As difficult as it was, I consider it one of life’s greatest gifts that I was with my mother, holding her hand, when she took her last breath. She had been in a coma for a few days and the last words she spoke to me were “Go home, Barbara, you’ve been here all day.”
If I had to choose three words to describe my mom, they would be young at heart. I’m pretty certain everyone that knew her would agree. Happy birthday, Mom.