Another Mother’s Day has passed without you. Though I was physically required to be present in a non Mother’s Day environment, my mind was drawn to thoughts of you, remembrances of years and years of safety in the same world with you. As long as you were here with me, no matter what happened, big or small, I knew there was a safety net. Regardless of the fact that in recent years you were rarely called upon in that capacity, just knowing it was possible made me invincible. Now that you have gone to a place that I know nothing of (yet) I am a little bit less bullet proof.
Honestly, I don’t need a Hallmark holiday to think of you. I do it every day, in a variety of situations. Sometimes a particular sound or location or something someone says will trigger it. Other times I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what zinged you into my consciousness at that moment. There is something about being at my desk at work that frequently makes me startle for a split second and wonder if I have left you alone at the house for too long. This happens several times a week. For just a moment, I will pitch madly through my muddled mind for orienting circumstances, settling finally on the fact that you are gone, that I was there with you as you left this life, that I don’t need to watch over you any more. The tears will spring to my eyes for a moment (as they are now) and I will stare unseeingly at my desk or computer monitor or telephone, then right myself and move on. Every time I pass a certain location on the freeway, I wonder if I will get back to your house in time. For what, I don’t know. I listen to your granddaughter speaking in her “realtor voice” when on the phone with a client, and remember you having that very same voice back in the days when you were working and I was still a girl in my mother’s house. And for some crazy reason, I think of you sometimes when putting my coffee in the microwave to reheat. Now, isn’t that just silly?
Every few days, I think to call you, or I see a card that would be perfect to send to you. I finally stopped thinking I should print a copy of a recently taken photo of one of the kids for you. You always took such pleasure in those things. You almost never were too busy to hear of the latest escapades, or the budding plans, or the hard won accomplishments of your grandchildren. You always asked after every single one of them each time we talked on the phone or got together for lunch. Your delight when one of them visited was always wonderful to see. I miss being able to consult with you when I am worried about one of my babies. Your advice, and sometimes just the questions you thought to ask, so often pointed me in the right direction, or at least a different one that I might not have thought of on my own. Just knowing that you knew my concerns made them less dangerous somehow. Thank you. I miss that about you. Too many people these days are uninterested in anything outside their own immediate wants and needs.
I miss, too, exchanging books with you. I used to buy my next read with you in mind. Wonder if Mom will like this one? I couldn’t wait to bring you new books by our favorite authors. I was sad with you when we learned that Maeve Binchey died. And I wonder if you and Papa are getting to laugh with Ferrol Sams wherever you are. He died a couple of weeks after you did, you know. We so wanted him to write us another couple of good books, didn’t we? Wasn’t it fun when we went to the Decatur Book Fair and listened to him speak and read from one of his books? Anyway, I still read constantly, Mom. And now when I have something good to pass on, I take it to Aunt Nona for you. We both miss you being in the middle of that loop, though. And hey, I have a Kindle reader on my iPad now, but I still prefer a bound book. Pages to turn and covers to hold. Just like you and I predicted.
I wish I could thank you again for the wonderful childhood you worked so hard to provide for me and my brother. I know you know how much I appreciated your devotion, especially after I had children of my own and understood more deeply the sacrifices you made. You knew that being a mother myself would open my eyes to a world I didn’t imagine prior to that time. Thank you for being such a good example to me. I feel always a step or two behind in following that example, but I at least have a model worth emulating. I sometimes wonder what of that good teaching I have passed on to my own kids. Sometimes I see it in them, but I think some bits are far more deeply held and not visible, even to their mother.
And Mom, regardless of the fact that you and I were so different in our approach to life, in what we regarded as success, in how we held our spiritual beliefs, you knew how to appreciate me and make me feel accepted and loved and encouraged always. I hope my kids feel that kind of love from me, too. You gave my brother and me community and a feeling of responsibility to our family and neighbors. I find it kind of poignant that when you died, it was the end of our old neighborhood. Nearly fifty years of one after another of the original families dying out or moving on. You were the last one. You stuck it out. Well done.
That last year with you, after the horrible diagnosis and surgery that never should have happened, was rich and frightening all at once. Suddenly you were without your sweet Gordon, and sickness had overcome you, and you were so, so lost. I am glad I was able to stay with you and care for you that last year. It was such a small payback for the fifty plus years that you had been a stalwart fan and protector to me. You and I both learned how to be the people we needed to be during that hard time. I fumbled my way through medicines and feeding you, bathing you and dressing you. We listened to music together sometimes, you let me read to you at other times. I almost couldn’t stand it when you thanked me so humbly every day for caring for you, for loving you. But you would slowly raise that frail thin little hand to my face and tell me I was your angel… And so we wound slowly down to that last night, and just before the sun rose, I whispered goodbye to you.
I miss you. We all miss you. You were a fine woman from a proud line of fine southern women, and the world lost a little bit of its color when you left. I am trying to carry on the tradition, albeit with a slightly different pallet than yours. But then, isn’t that what you did?
Love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.