What would your mother say about what you are doing?
What would your mother think about all of this?
Would you leave if your mother were alive?
I’ve heard these questions from friends, family members, acquaintances, people I barely know, and only about a million times from my own neurotic brain which has been in overdrive these last few months. When the going gets tough, I think of my mother, because she was the toughest cookie around.
These questions relating to my dead mother’s would-be opinions are, of course, fascinating (and horrifying) to think about. I think about them as I sit silently in the pews over the high holidays, when I am alone in the car, as I am attempting to fall asleep, and on the toilet (when I forget to bring in my phone).
What would my mother think about Mike and my decision to leave everyone we love and everyone who loves us, to embark on an extended sailing voyage?
We’ve now sold, stored or given away just about everything we own (home, cars, furniture, handbags, and yes, even a beloved pair of Jimmy Choo shoes). In less than a week we will be moving on to our 49 foot sailboat, doubling down on our marriage, seeking out adventure, and enduring long sea passages. We are heading south, with not much of an itinerary beyond an extended passage in November (after hurricane season) from Hampton Virginia to Antigua.
My mother died in November, 2014, but that has not stopped her from being a huge influence in my life. Daily, I wonder what she would think about this or that or the other. Would my mother like this piece I wrote? Would she like my hair? Would she approve of my kids’ big life decisions? My parenting, my cooking, my alcohol consumption? Would she tell me my skirt is a bit too tight to wear to temple?
So, would my mother approve of me selling everything, leaving everyone I love, and living on a boat for an extended period of time? You could say I’ve given this a bit of thought.
I cannot think of a subject my mother did not have a strong opinion on, but with family and love and commitment and life issues she was particularly outspoken. She didn’t worry about the niceties of tact; she told it exactly like she saw it (and she did not ever worry about consistency.) She always knew what the “right” thing to do was, according to her.
WOULD I LEAVE IF MY MOTHER WERE STILL ALIVE?
The answer, of course, is that depends (I’ve still got plenty of lawyer left in me), and, being Jewish to the core, I can answer that with a few questions of my own.
Is my mother in good health? Is my mother independent? Do my three brothers still all live nearby? Does my mother have only months to live, or is her life span most likely measured in years? Does she have a full and meaningful life? Does she still enjoy spending time with her grandchildren more than she enjoys time with me? Does she know I survived breast cancer? When was the last time she pissed me off by making a nasty comment about my hair?
There are obviously no good answers to that question.
WHAT WOULD MY MOTHER THINK ABOUT ALL OF THIS, AND WHAT WOULD SHE SAY?
I put these two questions together, because my mother ALWAYS said exactly what she thought. My mother was also no dotard (I’m sorry, had to get that in somewhere in this post). She was clear and strong and opinionated right up until the final hours of her life. So, once she got past the emotional shock, she would most likely think and verbalize these thoughts:
Have you lost your f*&king mind?
Be sure to spend some time on Bequia. It’s my favorite island.
Your dad suggested we did this too, and I told him, “over my dead body.”
Your father would be so jealous.
You’ll hate it and you’ll be back in a few weeks.
Aren’t all the Caribbean islands the same? Palm trees, beaches, rum drinks. Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
Really, have you gone insane?
Come back before that first grandchild is born. (No worries there, mom.)
I am so happy for you.
I think the breast cancer may have affected your brain.
You’ll be in great hands with Captain Mike.
I expect you to be back for the Jewish holidays (even shmini artzeret). And Mother’s day. And all family weddings. And all family funerals.)
Call your cousin Kenny.
What is the matter with you?
Who is going to make the meringue cookies for Passover?
You only live once.
Your Aunty Ruthie did this with Edwin, and she almost lost him overboard!
What are you doing with the Red Sox tickets?
I will miss you so much.
I get sea sick just thinking about you.
It’s the perfect time in your life to do something like this.
How are you going to keep from gaining weight with all that eating and drinking?
If you have to go, make sure you call me every single day.
While I no longer can call my mom every day, I will visit my mom (and dad) in the coming days to say goodbye, and leave a handful of heart rocks at their graveside. No visits after that, unless I am hallucinating from lack of sleep. But I have no doubt that if my mom has anything to do with it, whether in the end she would have thought this is crazy or not, she will do her very best to keep us safe.
And I’m ok with that.