Remembering Mom on Her Birthday and the Things She Taught Me

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by Jackie Babiarz |

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Today is my mom’s 78th birthday, and we are going to celebrate it the same way as if she were still with us.

I sent my siblings Dunkin’ gift cards to treat them to coffee, like all of us used to have with her. I will not limit myself to the number of Lotto scratch-off tickets I play today. And I will dance around my kitchen to Neil Diamond and Tina Turner.

Earlier this week, my daughter, Ryan, saw Oct. 28 on the calendar, and smiled and asked me, “Mom, are you still taking me out of school to go for lunch for grandma’s birthday?” I grinned and replied, “Chinese food date.” At night, my husband will make ribs for dinner just like my mom loved. Then, chocolate cake for dessert. 

remembering mom | Rett Syndrome News | Ryan Babiarz smiles alongside her grandmother, Jackie in a black-and-white photo from October 2016. Two cupcakes have a 7 and a 3 candle for her 73rd birthday.

Photo by Jacqueline Babiarz

Ryan Babiarz helps her Grandma Jackie celebrate her 73rd birthday in this photo from Oct. 28, 2016. (Photo by Jacqueline Babiarz)

I never knew just how much my mom loved me until I had children of my own. 

I also never knew the heartbreak that came with being a mother until I had kids of my own. After my firstborn, Cammy, was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, my mom told me that she grieved twice — as a mom and as a grandparent.

It was heartbreaking for us both to know Cammy was regressing, but there was nothing we could do to stop it, as she was going through the onset of Rett. And my mom never showed her sadness in front of Cammy or me; she just played with Cammy like she did any other grandchild. And through it all, my mom became my rock more than ever, going to endless early intervention therapies, medical appointments, and seeing specialists like neurologists, pulmonologists, and physiatrists

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My mom was the reason I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. 

She was always there for her six kids, 18 grandchildren, and any friends who walked through our door. She always had an extra plate with a Post-it note on it, because she knew there were always extra people in our house, and that our house was their home, too. 

Standing at 4 feet 11 inches and weighing 90 pounds wet, she was the greatest fighter I’ve ever known. With a Dunkin’ coffee in one hand and an apron tied around her waist, she fought for everyone and everything she believed in. She taught me to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

She loved the underdog. She loved kids the most at their most unlovable moments. My mom sat with the kids who didn’t have grandparents on Grandparents Day. My mom grew a garden just for the grandkids to pick the cherry tomatoes. There was always a hopscotch board drawn on the sidewalk. She instilled in us a love for make-believe, for playing outside, and double Dutch

I learned invaluable lessons from her — when she took away Christmas, when she wouldn’t let us leave the house in first grade without reciting our multiplication tables, when she took me to Las Vegas when I turned 21. I love remembering how much she loved the wonder and magic of Halloween, how she showed me the importance of a secret stash of candy in my nightstand, how she was able to instill that perfect balance of love and fear, and how she became a second mom to more kids than I will ever be able to count.

My greatest honor was being named after her. Happy heavenly birthday to my mom.

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