"Sometimes I feel like there is a hole inside of me,
an emptiness that at times seems to burn.
I think if you lifted my heart to your ear, you could probably hear the ocean.
I have this dream of being whole.
Of not going to sleep each night, wanting.
But still sometimes, when the wind is warm or the crickets sing...
I dream of a love that even time will lie down and be still for.
I just want someone to love me.
I want to be seen."
-- Practical Magic ---
my thoughts have been consumed with my mother, Nancy. Today marks the
day she died, 27 years ago. I've been without my mother for much longer
than I had her.
My memories come as isolated
snapshots now. A kaleidoscope of colorful fragments that somehow add up
to a woman I once called "Mom". She's a foggy
image I can't quite bring into focus and a gentle spirit that infuses
all my days. She exists in the background of my life, hovering,
suspended, shapeless, like familiar air. I can no longer hear her voice, and the
few examples I have of her handwriting have begun to look foreign to
me. I am losing her a little more each day. How is it then, I've
wondered, that she still has such a hold on me. How can a woman in her early 40's .... me .... still truly be so lost?
Well....sometimes it happens like this: I have an 11am business meeting and I am trying to decide what to wear. One one side of my closet is a stack of ripped jeans and a row of men's work shirts; on the other is a line of monochromatic sweaters and dark wool suits. I try on skirts and sweaters, but in the mirror every combination appears drab. Nothing sparkling. I don't know how to make this fit. Shouldn't a woman know this?
And sometime it happens like this: I'm invited to a dinner party hosted by an older woman. Because I remember, from some distant conversation with my mother, never to arrive at someone's home empty-handed, I pick up a bouquet of flowers on the way. Days later, another guest who attended the party mentions the thank you note she mailed in a manner that reveals the hostess commented on the absence of mine. A thank you note?, I ask. A thank you note, this woman repeats. I'm confused. And, immediately, ashamed. I want to rush to a phone to call the hostess and explain. I'm terribly sorry, I would say, but I don't know about these things. And though it feels like a pathetic excuse and a dramatic response to such a small oversight, I have the impulse to tell her, "You see, I never learned about this. My mother died when I was fourteen".
And, sometimes, it happens like this: I am spending an evening with a friend and his sister's two young children. The little girls eye me from a cautious distance, wary of this stranger who kisses their uncle hello. Slowly, they approach me, displaying their toys, and by the time we finish dinner and sit down to play a game, they both insist on being on my team. They tug at my skirt, they want to hold my hands, they want to brush my hair. I see in their eyes what I once I once felt thirty-five years ago, that fascination with an older female who's young enough to be accessible yet distant enough to represent some future self. She is, you think, the woman you will one day become. I look at the girls looking and me and feel a brief surge of responsibility, but I also feel slightly absurd. Like an imposter who didn't plan to fool this town. Because really, I'm not sure what it means to be a woman, at all.
mother died on the eve of her 48th birthday. So young. It had been
thirteen months since she returned from the doctors office with news of
malignancy in her breast, thirteen months of chemotherapy and CAT scans
and desperate attempts to hang onto the little rituals that amounted to
normalcy in our day. We still took our orange juice and vitamins
together in the morning, but then she swallowed the small white oval
pills that were supposed to help prevent the cancer's spread. After
school I would go with her to her oncology appointments and on the way
home in the car she promised me she would live. Because I wanted so
badly to believe her I did, even as I watched her lose her hair, and
then her mobility, and finally her hope.
mother died, I knew no woman my age who had experienced mother loss.
Also, too, I was an only child. I felt utterly and irrevocably alone. In my early twenties I searched local bookstores for writings about mother loss.
In each book I found about mother-daughter relationships, I quickly
flipped ahead to the chapter about a mother's death, but discovered they
all assumed the reader would be in her forties or fifties when her
mother dies. I was fourteen. With a maternal void in my
life for most of it, it's a wonder I'm not more screwed up than I am.
:) When your window to mimicry closes - how do you learn?
Sometimes....sometimes...I am honest with my spirit. I admit how hard things are without her. I missed my mother, terribly, when I graduated from college and no one was there. I missed her when I got my first job promotion and wanted to share the news with someone who'd be proud. I miss her when the Holiday season rolls around again and have my annual frozen pizza dinner, alone. I miss her when I'm sick and when I'm lonely and when I can't remember what works best on insect bites, and when nobody else cares how rude the clerk in the store was to me. Whether she actually would have fed me homemade chicken soup or mailed me cotton balls with calamine lotion if she were alive isn't really the issue. To be honest, my mother never cooked me soup that didn't come from the Lipton's box. It's the fact that I have no mother to ask for these things that makes me miss her all over again. Every time.
am fooling only myself when I say that my mother exists now only in a
photograph or in the outline of my hand or in the armful of memories I
still hold tight. She lives on beneath everything I do. Her presence influenced who I
was and her absence influences who I am. From the fourteen years with
her I learned to be fun loving, enthusiastic and devoted. Since her
death I've learned to be independent, self sufficient and strong.
I often ask
myself: Am I as I am - who I am, what I am - because my mother lived or
because my mother died?
The answer, I decide, is both.
Love you and miss you, Mom - forever my hero.
See you in Heaven.