Moms rock, but Mother's Day? Not so much. The commercials, consumerism and social expectations would like me to believe differently. You'd think that being a mom myself would change how I feel, but it doesn't.
My mom died when I was 7 years old, and I've hated Mother's Day ever since. I met my stepmother when I was 8 years old. I love her, and she deserves all the tribute I can muster, but not on this one day.
This year, Mother's Day is especially painful. Thanks to COVID-19, we have lost loved ones at an alarming rate. So, if this Mother's Day is hard for you for the first time, I'm here to tell you it's OK to sit this one out. It's OK to say no to this holiday that feels like everyone is celebrating "at" you.
If you look up my mother in the newspaper archives, you'll find the photo of the car crash that killed her. Feb. 25, 1983, in the Kentucky Post. I saw it at a neighbor's house I visited shortly after she died. The newspaper had been saved but carelessly tossed on a stack near an end table. I was young, but I could read. I knew what I was seeing.
I recently asked a friend to go to the library and get the article that I thought ran with the photo, but there was no article, just a photo with a headline and a caption. My friend omitted the photo per my request. The image is etched in my brain; I don't need to see it again. The headline read, "Ice snarls I-275 in Wilder" The caption read, "Westbound I-275 became a sheet of ice about 8:15 this morning when snow froze on the roadway. A Toyota skidded on the ice and struck an electrical pole, and four or five other cars went out of control. Two women in the Toyota — Bonnie Feldkamp, 32, of Walnut Street and Susan White, 33, of Wilson Ave, Cincinnati — were admitted to St. Luke Hospital."
That's not a typo. Bonnie Feldkamp was my mother. We have the same name. I am her junior. She died in that hospital two days later. Brain-dead. My father and my grandmother signed the papers that permitted surgeons to harvest her organs and let her go.
I was a writer at a young age. It didn't seem like a choice, really. If I wasn't writing in my diary, I was writing sentences and essays as punishment. As a teen, I kept a journal and wrote poetry. Diaries were for amateurs. Journals were for serious writing, or at least that's what I thought at the time. When I was arrested for destroying property, the judge sentenced me to write an essay about positive ways to deal with my anger, along with a letter of apology to the property owner. It would seem that everyone agreed I was better off with a pen in my hand.
At 45 years old, I'm still learning to use my words. These days, I'm just coping at the keyboard.
I used to think that writing was my immortality, but really, it's my mother's. Her name deserves better than a mention in a caption under a smashed-up Toyota on page 1.
I don't need to celebrate her on Mother's Day. I celebrate her every time our name appears in a byline.
Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a wife, mother and award-winning columnist. She is the media director of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Find her on social media @WriterBonnie, or email her at [email protected] To find out more about Bonnie Jean Feldkamp and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.