Motherless Day

Early May has always been about tough choices for the Fisher-Paulson family.

For six or seven years, our sons have walked into class, and a very kind teacher has handed them pink construction paper, paper doilies and crayons and told them to make a Mother’s Day card. Now, my 11-year-old Zane is pragmatic, so he drew little attack ninja warriors shooting flames out of their skateboards, a word balloon over one of the ninjas shouting, “Happy Mother’s Day! I love you Daddy!”

But Aidan is less easily swayed.   “I am not doing this,” he announced each year, “I have two Daddies.” And each year, the teacher said, “Well, we’ll just make a card for your Grandmother.”

“You mean Nana,” he corrected. And so he drew lightning bolts and red-tailed hawks, and spelled out, “I luv u Nana.” And Nana, God bless her, put each and every card up on her refrigerator.

In May 2002, my mother, Nurse Vivian (see photo above), passed away from ovarian cancer. She died on a Wednesday, and on Mother’s Day, I gave her eulogy. In an eerie coincidence, last year, my husband’s mother, whom the boys called Nana, passed away in the early morning hours of Mother’s Day from brain cancer.

So this year, there is no Mother. There is no Grandmother. There is no Nana.   To make matters worse, the godmothers went off on a trip to Scotland. There are only the two sons, the two fathers, the three male rescue dogs, and one aging Pekingese (Qp) who is the only source of estrogen in the blue bungalow on Winding Way. And Qp has no appreciation for greeting cards, unless they are wrapped in salami.

In this great Gayby Boom of the 21st Century, we still have to figure out the holidays. I imagine that our lesbian neighbors down the block have the same sort of problem with Father’s Day, even though it has always been a second class kind of holiday, a consolation prize important only to Hallmark Cards and the purveyors of ugly neckties. By Father’s Day, most schools have let out, and so no teacher tells the students to take blue construction paper and make a card. And so Zane and Aidan have never really embraced Father’s Day, never woken up early to burn pancakes and pour orange juice for breakfast in bed.

I miss my mother every day. I miss Nurse Vivian’s lemon meringue pie, or the way that she fed Captain Crunch cereal to the birds in wintertime, or the fact that she sewed a miniature tuxedo for me for my kindergarten pageant. I miss the fact that Nurse Vivian thought that I would one day be a writer. And someday I will.

Kevin and his mom, Nurse Vivian


In fact, it is a testament to Nurse Vivian that I have become a mother/father. From her I get the nurturing part of my nature, the willingness to bake cupcakes for the school drive, and make Borax crystals for Aidan’s science project, or sit on the rocking chair with Zane on my lap when he has scraped a knee. Because of Nurse Vivian, I can still be a tough cop and then go home to needlepoint a First Communion banner. And for that I miss her.

But we are Fisher-Paulsons. We honor what we have lost, but we celebrate what we have. So this year, we decided to celebrate the feminine, the nurturing women who have influenced them, the sixth grade teacher, and the woman who runs the cafeteria and the neighbor who plays Uno with them. We are baking pumpkin pies for the neighbor who rescued one of our rescue dogs, and drawing cards for the aunt who always send us postcards.

For us, every woman is a Wonder Woman, or rather, every woman is a Wondrous Woman.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Posted by Kevin Fisher-Paulson

Kevin is the author of "A Song for Lost Angels," his memoir of how he and his husband fostered, raised and lost newborn triplets. Kevin is also featured in "When Love Lasts Forever," "MHR is my home," and writes a column for the San Francisco Chronicle. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, his two adopted sons and his four rescue dogs.


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