My mother’s life and my son’s life overlapped by a mere 15 months. A blip of time. He was, at the time of her death, her only grandchild. My brother’s children have never known her and my son has only vague memories and an understanding that there is a low ache like white noise on my side of the family.

So Mother’s Day is a combination of joy and melancholy for me. For two Mother’s Days I was a mom with a mom. On my first my son was barely two months old. My head was still underwater and my mom was only recently diagnosed. We spoke in terms of hope and getting better and cures. She spent all the time she could with her tiny grandchild. By my second mother’s day the elephant in the room was getting intrusive and noisy but I diligently practiced denial. The treatments were not NOT working, but the results weren’t spectacular.

I was a first-time mother and a late mother. My son was still small and while I worried about him, that worry happened while he was in a hip sling or attached to my hand. It wasn’t until after she was gone and I had to send him out in the world (pre-k, school, etc.), and I inevitably felt his first pushes against me and toward independence that I finally really got my mother. I understood how hard and how fiercely she loved me, how difficult it was for her to let me venture, and how important it was for me that she bit her tongue and sat on her hands and let me. I wish she could be around when my son is a teenager and late coming home. She could remind me of all the times I sauntered in a bit past curfew and wondered why she was so upset about five minutes.

I understand why, when it was clear her tumor was not going anywhere she said with relief in her voice “at least now I know I will go before you kids.” I didn’t know that part of motherhood is getting used to always having your heart in your throat. And I wish I had had a chance to say “I get it. I get YOU. It all makes sense now.”

So while I never want to take anything away from the wonderful Mother’s Day I had today – the sweet homemade card, the bundle of thorny roses, the donuts in bed (!) – I can’t let the day pass without mentioning that cancer is an ass, and pancreatic cancer is the biggest ass of them all.

I miss you mom. Happy Mother’s Day.