My mom went all out for St. Patrick’s Day in 2009. She started planning it weeks ahead of time and invited all of us over to have ham and cabbage that night. I remember thinking how random it all seemed. Sure, we were a bunch of Mc’s, but no one had ever made a big deal out of St. Patrick’s Day before. And while we were all proud to be Irish, I don’t think we ever ate ham and cabbage and my mom, who always hated to cook, definitely never made it for us.
Still, we all obliged her and went over to their house that day to celebrate. She had gone all out with decorations and had the table set so nicely. She even bought each of us an Irish themed mug and an Irish lad/lass figurine. We were all teasing and making fun of her about it. The guys were joking about the mugs because they said “Himself,” which the Irish use to denote someone of importance or the “man of the house.” Of course, none of us knew that at the time and so we just kept making fun of it. My sister and I kept saying how we didn’t know what we were going to do with the figurines because it wasn’t something we would put out in our homes. At the same time, I felt bad because my mom had tried so hard and clearly wanted to make this a nice dinner for all of us, but all we did was make fun of her for it. I honestly don’t think she even noticed that we were making fun of her or she just didn’t take it to heart, but I feel bad about it to this day.
Looking back now, I know that she was already in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s at that time. She was diagnosed a little over a year later. What we made fun of and brushed off as her ditsy-ness were actually the first signs of the disease. I know that I shouldn’t beat myself up for what I didn’t know back then, but I hate myself for the way I acted that day. I feel so bad and so guilty that we all made fun of her when she was just trying to do something nice. It kills me.
For the first couple of St. Patrick’s Days after that, I was the dutiful daughter who put the figurines out to decorate for the holiday. After several moves, they ended up staying in a box in the basement or garage and I never took them out. I recently found them when reorganizing all of our decorations. It stopped me in my tracks and all of the emotions came bubbling up to the surface once again. But this time I didn’t shove them back in the box and suppress the memory of that day to avoid the pain and sadness. I kept my figurine out and placed it on my dresser next to my favorite picture of my mom and me. I looked at her in that picture and with tears streaming down my face, I profusely apologized to her for that day. I told her every thought that I’ve ever had and every feeling that I’ve ever written about from that day. I forgave myself for the mistakes I made that day and for not knowing what was to come. And I’m pretty sure that she forgave me, too.
Now I look at this figurine every day when I look at her picture, when I tell her good morning, good night, and how much I love her. It is my way of continuing to try to make peace with my past and my mistakes. And it serves as a constant and profound reminder of just how much she loves me.