For over a decade, Mother's Day has been a tough day for me to get through. Since my Mom and brother were killed by a drunk driver, it affected me deeply and I think of her a lot. Mom and I had argued a lot, and when she died we hadn't patched things up. It felt like we had unfinished business. I'm a big believer now in telling the people you love just how much they mean to you.
On Mother's Day, I found myself in Austin, TX. I was going to stay overnight and deliver my car the next morning. So I went to get provisions at the local grocery store, food for dinner and breakfast the next day.
As I walked up and down the aisles of the grocery store, I had the eerie sense that I was being watched. But I tend to be a bit on the paranoid side, so I ignored the feeling. A few minutes later, I looked down the aisle and saw a woman staring right at me. I made a U-turn and went two aisles down. As I looked at the shelves, I saw her once again watching me intently. This time, I grabbed my cart and walked to the other side of the store, as far as I could go. I stood there for a few minutes, just wasting time. And then I felt a tap on my shoulder and nearly jumped out of my skin.
"Excuse me," said a frail female voice.
I turned to see the woman who had been following me. She had a very tragic look on her face. "Yes ma'am, how can I help you?"
"I'm afraid this is going to sound very strange."
I meet strange people on a daily basis as I drive. I classify them as "Bill's people", the odd folks who like to pop up and creep me out at the most inconvenient times. I could barely wait to hear what was coming. "Go ahead and give me a try."
"Mother's day is very hard for me."
And with those words, I was suddenly feeling a change in my thinking. I felt empathy for this woman, whatever she had to say. "I can relate to that."
"Five years ago, my son and I had a terrible argument one Saturday night. Things were said, mean and nasty things. He was furious when he stormed out of the house." She began to sniffle. "My son was killed that night when a dumptruck's brakes failed to function. He died, being mad at his mother. Do you know how horrible that is?"
"I think so."
She shook her head. "No, you can never know. Where are my manners, my name is Beverly."
She held out her hand, and I took it and gave it a light shake. "Bill Thomas."
"Bill, the reason I was staring at you is... well, you bear a striking resemblance to my son Don."
I felt a chill go up my spine. "Really?"
"Yes. I know that I have no right to ask you, but... The thing of it is, I never got to say goodbye to my son. Is there any way you might consider just saying goodbye mother?"
I got a knot in the pit of my stomach. "Uh, no. I don't believe I could do that."
Beverly nodded. "I understand. It was presumptious of me to ask you that. God bless and have a nice day." She turned and walked off, pushing her cart loaded down with items.
I wandered around the store for a while, lost in thought. A million memories of my own Mom, and thoughts of Beverly who had the same lack of closure with her own son.
One half hour later, I pushed my cart to one of the cashier stations. And who should be right in front of me but Beverly. She smiled at me and said "Hello, Bill."
I nodded and smiled back at her, starting to open my mouth but not knowing what to say. She grabbed her cart full of groceries in plastic bags and started for the door. Suddenly I blurted out "Goodbye Mom." She turned at me and smiled sweetly, and then she hurried out as if washed away by waves of emotion.
The cashier rang up my ten items, and then announced I would owe him one hundred fifty one dollars. I asked him to repeat, as I was certain I misunderstood. He repeated it for me, and I felt full of confusion. "It's the combined price for you and your mother's groceries. She said her son Bill was paying."
"She said-- what?" My mind was reeling. "She's not my mother."
The cashier smirked. "I heard you say 'Goodbye mother'."
"But that was... no, I mean it--"
"Someone has to pay for this."
And so I did. I ran out to the parking lot to see if I could find her, but she was long gone. I had been conned. But at the same time, I had experience a weird and unexpected form of closure regarding my own mom. On Mother's Day.