Even After She’s Gone, Mama Still Knows Best

by Tina Drakakis
Originally Published: 

My mom died five years ago today.

I’ve spent the past four anniversaries of her passing confounded by the shock and awe that goes into the passage of time. I wrote about it last year, and the year before that, and so on. I’ve always focused on my kids because — truly — nothing is a greater catalyst for maternal awareness than grief and loss.

It halts us: little boys sprouting facial hair and muscled man-limbs in the blink of an eye, teenage girls blossoming into fascinating young women (with — eek! — boyfriends) and the dizzying commitments on calendar pages that keep us busier and busier (and busier…) with each passing year. If only we had a dollar for every friend to lament, “Where did the time go?” on a post or picture. It happens every day.

I think this year, though, I’m feeling different. I’m certainly still amazed by the quickness of time (and yes, I am still in disbelief that I can now legally grab a beer with 50% of my children). But I’m finding as time moves on, I am less paralyzed by the passage of it and more accepting of the presence — and present — of it. I like it. I really, really like knowing — and even not knowing — something’s coming ahead. This slight shift in my personal paradigm keeps me excited and hopeful for the future, even on the down days.

Graduations, colleges, engagements, professions, a stubborn boy’s long hair finally getting chopped — there is so much greatness going on at every turn of our lives, and so much promise, it’s almost unfair not to be happy. I have to be honest: If my mom ever caught wind that there was anything other than joy where her grandkids are concerned, she would be one pissed chick.

So while I miss her like crazy, I can’t often stay sad for more than a moment or two. That’s just not how she rolled.

I’ve no doubt part of my mind shift came with turning 50 this year.


Holymotherfuckingshit, right? How the effing hell did that happen? I’m pretty sure I can still dig up my T-shirt that boasts “We work less and party more, cuz we’re the class of ’84.” Seriously, this is something. A lot of reflection comes with that magic number. I remember planning my mom’s 50th surprise party. We crammed all her friends into my tiny newlywed apartment and basically threw her a keg party. She didn’t drink beer but we did, and as far as entertaining, we knew little else. It worked. She was elated and equally annoyed. She had just become a grandmother and was none too happy that her little baby Jesus didn’t make it to her kegger. Still, she was surrounded by love, and she was until the end.

On these anniversaries, I think of the friends my mom left behind, and I am so, so sad for them to be going on without her. I know profoundly the void they feel.

She taught me well. Like her, I’ve become adept at insulating myself with friends who care deeply for me, friends I would do anything for in return. Most are a phone call away. Others, a car ride. One, a plane ride taken on a moment’s notice.

Tina Drakakis

Growing up, I used to read Erma Bombeck all the time. I loved the stuffing out of her. During winter break of my senior year of college, I came across her column in the New York Daily News entitled No Greater Friend Than a Best Friend. I clipped it and held onto it for a couple of months and then mailed it in a birthday card to Kristi, my best friend since fifth grade. There was rarely a time we were ever living in the same state together for very long. Kristi held onto it for almost a decade, then sent it back to me in a card for my 30th birthday. I framed the yellow newsprint and sent it back her way when she turned 40.

Naturally, it made its way back to me a few months ago. It will hang on my wall for another 10 years until, well, you get it.

How unfathomably fortunate that I have a 40-year friendship going strong.

How impossibly amazing for my mom to be the subject of such beautiful memories for so many.

How ridiculously wrong that my own children didn’t plan my 50th festivities? (I kid, I kid. I masterfully controlled every detail.)

I think about her every day, but I honor her today.

You’re on so, so many minds today, Mom.

Cheers and love.

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