Mother’s Day: My Annual Day of Bittersweet Reflections

I was born on Mother’s Day, 1954. People always say “how sweet”, and I know in some ways it was, but I imagine it was something of an ordeal for my Mama. I was premature and an RH baby, which made things a bit dicey, from what I understand… Apparently, they had to replace all of my blood with hers, and as a result the day of my birth was hard on both of us. When we celebrate birthdays, we need to remember that our mom did all the work; we just showed up. (That’s why my favorite birthday greeting is “Way to go, YOUR MOM!”) But I digress… Every few years May the ninth falls on Mother’s Day, but it varies according to Leap Year. This year I am three days away, so I guess I will celebrate my birth’s exact day, along with all those amazing moms in 2027…

A Bumpy Beginning

When I was born in Wilford Hall at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, my dad was off training to fly jets, and my mother was in San Antonio caring for my 19 month old sister waiting to have me. Her parents helped, I’m sure, but it must have been a lonely and vulnerable time for her. Growing up, she told me numerous times how close to death I was at birth, how I had been saved for a reason.

Today, as I live in a world affected by war, greed, pandemic threats and AI, I am still reflecting upon what that reason might be. I was an RH baby, which today is a relatively minor blood disorder that can be treated in utero. It was apparently pretty major 70 years ago. I almost died at birth. To save me, they had to literally replace my blood with hers and transfuse her blood into me. My Mama always said that they told her I wasn’t going to make it more than once, but that I pulled through only by a miracle.

I also had a double hernia, along with the other issues, and what it added up to was a long, long Mother’s Day for Myrl. (Probably a long several days.) She was energetic and spunky, though, and we made it. My mother, Myrl Jean Zuercher, was born in Waco in 1932, and was adopted by Fay and Emmett Zuercher. Emmett worked for Maverick-Clarke, and Fay’s family were prosperous merchants who owned Staffel’s Feed Stores across South Texas. They adopted and raised two girls: Connie, who died in a car wreck at a tragically young age, and my mama, Myrl.

Football Sweetheart

She was cute and vivacious, a cheerleader who was named Football Sweetheart for the Alamo Heights mules. Years later she could still get into her cheerleading uniform. She was nick-named “Speedy” in high school, and I was always told it was because she drove fast, but I think it was more because she was kinda “fast” and liked to party. She was artistic and funny and cute as a button.

Mixed Feelings

Perhaps because Mama struggled with alcoholism, particularly later in life (she died from liver failure/cirrhosis in 1984), I have probably focused over the years too much on her demons and issues. I used to think that she perhaps didn’t love me because there were times I couldn’t depend on her. A ten-year-old brain often doesn’t see much context, and of course part of me assumed that maybe it was my fault she wasn’t always around. The year I lived at my grandparents (4th grade) I figured that I was the problem, and had not been good enough to make Mama love me. But I know now that she loved me deeply, and that she loved me the very best that she could.

Up until several years ago, I had never really given her credit for the many wonderful things she brought to my life– love and family, laughter and personality. She was almost 53 when she died, not long after holding our first daughter, and she left us too soon. Although I used to focus on my mother’s life primarily as one of unfulfilled potential, I have gained perspective over the years. Perhaps MY OWN LIFE is one of unfulfilled potential. Think about it: Maybe yours is, too. And anyway, part of my momma Myrl’s potential resides in ME. She was the one who most deeply shared my birthday, and it is now up to me to make the most of all that.

At one time, I resented having to share my birthday with Mother’s Day every few years, but now I know it’s an honor. This year I am not sharing my birthday with actual Mother’s Day (we’re a few days off). But, I am thinking of you, Mama, and will raise a glass of wine (yes, I have put those demons far behind) not just in your memory but in your honor.

Back on my birthday, when my dad was off flying jets and you were in the military hospital alone, you went through a lot of stress for me and because of me, and I am thankful. I am now surrounded by beautiful, caring Moms in my family, and they are part of your legacy because they are part of my life. I married a beautiful woman who has been an amazing mom to our 3 children, who has loved them (and me!) with a steadfast, stubborn love.

I have a beautiful step-mom who took me in and provided a loving home. My sister is a loving mom and grandmother; my wife and daughters and daughter-in-law are wonderful, caring Moms who share your sense of fun and zest for life. I often feel your presence in them just as I also see it reflected back at me when I look in the mirror. I am so much like you, and I’m grateful for that. This Mother’s Day, may you rest as peacefully as the South Texas hill country, where birds sing, gentle breezes blow, and the pace is soothingly slow. I hope to see you again.

To all you wonderful Moms out there, happy Mother’s Day! May God bless you richly with love and laughter, and may your kids be as good as you taught them to be. But remember to give yourself grace: Once you’ve loved them the way only mothers can, it’s on them.

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