October is Breast Cancer awareness month. But I can say for sure, that for me, and for my family – every month is breast cancer awareness month. Today, I want to write an open letter to all the girls out there who have a softball mom, because I lost mine 3 years ago to breast cancer that had metastasized to her brain.
My mom was your typical mom. She nagged me about dirty clothes on the floor, used to fuss when I took my cleats off in the car, and was always the one making sure that my white pants came clean enough, that I had an extra pair of socks in case of a blow out, and who was able to find my lucky green and gold bow on game days. It was the only bow that I wore when I pitched, and without it, I felt defeated before I even stepped foot in the circle.
I won’t lie. She also drove me nuts. ANd much to my shame now, I often let her know it.
She critiqued my at-bats, she drove me to lessons and made sure I practiced in the yard. She griped when I didn’t take the belt out of my pants before throwing them in the washer. She nagged me, and asked me what I thought were far too many questions about E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.
When I didn’t do my best, she would sure as the world let me know about it. Some days, I would see her coming to the dugout and I would cringe with embarrassment just wishing she would walk away. I wasn’t always as nice to her as I should have been. I can remember one day, when my white high school uniform pants were not ready for my game, I texted her angry and frustrated – her at work, and me at the school locker-room completely in tears because I just knew I was going to get in trouble with the coach for not being prepared. It was an hour before game time, and despite being told by her umpteen times to put those pants in the wash, they sat in the back seat of my car filthy from my last game.
Even though I was ungrateful, even though I took out my lack of responsibility on her, even though she should have made me wore dirty pants just to drive home a lesson – my mom showed up 3 minutes before game time with a brand new pair of white mizuno pants, in just my size for me to wear during my game, and she handed them to me without saying an “I told you so,” word.
And now, she is gone.
I think back to all the things that she did for me, most of which I never thanked her for, and realize every day that I step on the field that she was my biggest fan, and that despite my dad stepping in and stepping up – there are just certain things that only my softball mom could do.
And there are things I miss so much that my heart aches.
- I miss the way only my mom could make my jersey smell. I don’t know how she did it, because I still use her favorite laundry detergent today. But somehow, I could put on my clean jersey after she washed it, and it smelled like what I imagine Heaven smells like. There was never a hint of bleach, or sweat, and all my teammates would always sniff me because my jersey smelled so good.
- I miss how she was ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS able to find my favorite bow, even when I looked everywhere for it. And I miss how she never forgot to bring it to my games.
- I miss being able to turn around after a strike out or a sucky at bat, and see her face – silently cheering me on and telling me with her eyes and her smile that it’s ok and not to worry.
- I miss how she always seem to have yellow Powerades for me, because she knew that hardly any concession stands sold them, and they were the only kind I liked.
- I miss the way she would hug me after games, and tell me she was proud of me.
- I miss the little bag of goodies she would sneak into my batbag, even though I told her I didn’t need or want anything.
- I miss the way she used to sing, early Saturday mornings on the way to tournaments, her favorite 80’s music, which I totally thought was lame at the time. No matter how many times my grumpy teenage self would ask her to stop, or cover my ears, she would belt out her favorites until I eventually ended up laughing.
- I miss the way she always knew which days I would need an extra pair of socks, because she knew my feet would be soaked, something that drove my crazy.
- I miss her chicken salad sandwiches that she always made and stored in the cooler on gamedays. And although I would complain, and sometimes ditch her home made eats to go out and eat junk food with my friends, there is nearly nothing I wouldn’t do now to taste one now with the fresh slices of tomatoes she kept in a zip locked bag so they wouldn’t get soggy.
- I miss how she always knew what to pack. I was never without a hoodie on the days I said I didn’t need one. And it drove me insane that she would fuss and never listen, but I can say for sure that I was never cold once the sun went down.
- I miss our drives to practice. Even when I could drive myself, and I knew she had other things to do – she was always willing (and pushy) wanting to go with me.
- I miss the texts she would send me on game days. It seemed like she somehow always knew what I needed at just the right time, and looking back, I wish I would have kept them all.
- I miss how at the end of each game, at the end of each tournament – she was always sure I knew how proud of me she was. I can remember those days that I was pissy and mean and would snap at her. But now I would give anything to get one of those post games hugs and taps on the heads while she said, “You done good kiddo, I love watching you play!”
As my mother fought her battle with cancer, I can remember my 15-year-old self-being slightly embarrassed that she would show up to my games, nauseated with her hair covered in a bandana. I would tell her it was okay if she stayed home, but she never did. I wish I could take those moments back. And I would give anything to see her on the stands one more time, to see her standing up and clapping and jumping up and down when I did something she thought something was awesome.
I would give anything to be in the dugout, and turn around only to see her approaching the dugout with my green bow, and a yellow Powerade.
And I would give anything for just a moment, for just one brief second, to catch a whiff of the freshly cleaned jersey that only my softball mom could make smell like Heaven.
So my advice. Appreciate your family. Appreciate the ones who show up, even when you wish they didnt. And be grateful for the little things, because they really are the big ones.
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