For years after she left, I had dreams about her. I was always chasing her, trying to find her. She would sit down beside me and I would try to connect with her, to pour my heart out to her, to reach out to touch her… but she would shimmer and vanish.
In my dreams I always wept.
My mother was a lovely woman. She was clever and resourceful. She could make a silk purse out or a sow’s ear, and then butcher, cure and can the rest of the pig for winter. Mom baked a half-dozen loaves of bread every week, was a wonderful cook, and took beautiful care of her home. She could fix anything, usually with toothpaste and shoe polish or whatever else was handy.
When I turned 16 my folks let me have a huge party. Mom didn’t know about party crashers, so when some uninvited guests came, she opened the door, put sodas in their hands and showed them to the food. That night the kids who stayed latest were there because they were listening to my mom tell freaky stories about when she worked at the state mental hospital. Word got out. My mom was cool.
Mom tried very hard to do what was right, right up till the day she died. She had an assignment to visit sisters from church and had always done so loyally, but when she couldn’t get out to visit them because she was in the hospital, she sent me for stamps so that she could send “her ladies” cards. One of those ladies received her card after my mom had passed away.
For a long, long time I was mad at my mom. Mad that she died. Mad that she hadn’t tried harder to live after she was diagnosed. Mad that she seemed so happy to be moving on to the next part of her journey. I wanted her to fight to be here with us, to see her grandchildren. I wanted her.
I wish I could ask her a thousand questions. What did you always put in your Sweet and Sour pork sauce? Where did you put all the genealogy? How old were you when your thyroid began to act up? Do you see all of your beautiful grandchildren? Do you miss us?
The other day I was telling Ellie about my mom, her Grandma. I was telling her the stories I once listened to of mom growing up on the farm in Wisconsin, stories I had heard so many, many times as a child. She listened with intensity and asked questions about a woman she had never met. How is it that I have two children who never got to meet their grandmother? How is it she never saw her daughter with daughters of her own?
I miss my mom. I very consciously choose not to think about her, because it makes me cry. I wonder what she would say about how much Ellie looks like me, about Tessa’s gorgeous eyes, about how big Ethan is getting. I wonder if she would see in Adam the traces I see in him of her mother, with his gentle eyes and delicate chin. I wonder if she would be proud of them …
Strange how after 8 years it all still hurts so much. But I needed to remember her tonight. To pull out sweet warm memories and run my fingers over them slowly, recalling their delicate details, before folding them up and putting them away.
I love you, Mom.