Wednesday, 13 January 2016
A morose post, for a morose time.
As we approach the dreaded middle of January I find myself becoming more and more morose. January 16th is the anniversary of my Mom’s death. This January it will be twelve years. Everyone who has lost a parent will understand. If you don’t want to read a sad, reflective post perhaps you will want to skip this installment and come back next time.
Twelve years. A lifetime. I often reflect on what, on who my mom would be today. She would be fifty eight. How would those years have changed her? Would she still be the woman I remember? Or are my memories tainted by the pain of her death? I know how much I have changed in the years since her death and I recognize that she would have changed as well. As it is, she is frozen in time, unchangeable. Both the woman I remember and the woman she was at the time of her death.
She suffered so much as the cancer took her from us. Both physically and mentally. My mom was a voracious reader, unbelievably creative and a family woman to her core. As she got sicker she didn’t even read. She didn’t create anything. She faded. I wish I could say it was a slow passing, and in many ways it was. But it was only nine months from the moment we found out until she was gone. A drop in the bucket of time. A drop that seemed suspended in midair at the time.
I wish I could say I said everything I wanted to say to her. That I told her I loved her. That I was at peace with her death. I can’t. I always held the belief that she would get better. That she would recover. Even when the doctors said she wouldn’t I still couldn’t believe it. I didn’t say the words. I held them back believing there would be time. It is a regret I have to live with.
She’s missed so much. Watching my kids grow into teenagers. My sibling’s weddings. The birth of their kids. She’s missed seeing me become an author. My sister become a bigwig at a bank. My brother move away. My other brother finally find the woman he was meant to be with. So much. A lifetime.
I know she’s still here and watching, but it isn’t the same.
So I’m going to share some of my good memories and hope that they are enough to stitch my heart together so that these tears that leak out of the holes inside me finally slow. I know I will always cry, always be sad, however I am getting to the point where I can move past the pain of her death and remember the good stuff. It’s a step. Small. But I’ll take it.
-Christmas baking. Mom loved to bake. We never had a lot of money growing up and she would bake up a storm for the month before Christmas making boxes of cookies for everyone. At the time I would roll my eyes and begrudgingly help, now I remember her with flour on her cheeks as she grinned and made yet another bar.
-Cleaning. We moved a lot growing up, but in every house we would crank up the old stereo (with a record player) and dance around singing Janis Joplin as we vacuumed or dusted.
-Roller coasters. Mom was deathly afraid of roller coasters. We, as a family went to Cedar Point Amusement park in Ohio. My grandparents, my dad, sister, brother, Mr. Gloria and myself drove down. We convinced mom to go on one roller coaster with us. She agreed, providing it had no loop de loops. We took her on the worlds (at the time) tallest roller coaster….I still have the picture of her face coming off that ride.
-Her creativity. Any craft or art thing my mom picked up she did beautifully. She decided to knit and effortlessly whipped out these beautiful sweaters with 3-d dragons on them. She decided to paint and painted with oils amazing pictures of dogs and landscapes that could have hung in a gallery. She decided to write and became a columnist for the local paper (I have all her columns and still read them when I need to feel close to her).
-Her ability to drink anyone I know under the table. She introduced me and my friends to the wonderful world of tequila poppers.
-Her love of her grandchildren and practical jokes. She taught my son to say ‘redrum’ in a creepy voice while wiggling his pointing finger. Of course she didn’t tell me about it. I found out when I woke up to my two year old kneeling on the bed croaking at me, a scene right out of the shining. Of course she laughed like a fiend when I told her about it. She also bribed my son until he referred to her as “Grandma Jenie Queen of the World. Master of all she surveys.”
-I married into a fairly traditional family. Or at least that is how they seemed to my dysfunctional, loud, freeform one at the time. So just before the wedding my mother in law asked my mom if she had picked out her mother of the bride outfit and that perhaps the two of them could co-ordinate their dresses. My mom deadpanned (and I remember her exact words) “I found this hot little number in purple sequins and ostrich feathers that I thought I would pick up for the shindig.” Needless to say my mother in law didn’t quite know how to respond.
-Lunch. After I moved back to town, once a week my mom and I had lunch. We always went to Sids (a local pub) and we would talk about everything. Sometimes friends joined us, but not always. Most of the time it was just her and I. I treasure those times with her.
-Kindergarten. My mom was a very young mother. She had my older brother at fifteen and me at sixteen and in the small town we were born in that was a big no no. I think most people would expect her to be a pushover. To let other, more experienced (aka older) people tell her what to think. Not so much. When I went to kindergarten, I came home crying every day from school and no matter what mom did she couldn’t get me to tell her what was wrong. Finally, months into the school year, I confessed that every day my teacher would tell me that my tongue was too big and that I would never talk right. Mom calmed me down and reassured me then made an appointment to speak with my teacher. She went into the classroom and didn’t pay attention as the teacher spoke. Instead she kept looking around at the walls, refusing to participate in the conversation until the teacher, exasperated asked her what it was that she was looking for. Mom answered, “I’m looking for your fucking medical degree to dare to tell my daughter she won’t ever talk right.” Needless to say the conversation went downhill from there. But on the upside, my teacher never said anything like that to me again.
-when I was thirteen Mom worked at a printing place. They were small time, making notepads and business cards and promotional materials for businesses. For Christmas that year she made me my own set of business cards. They said “Gloria Balfour (my maiden name) writer” Maybe she did know, at least in some hidden part of her what would happen for me.
Those are a sprinkling of the memories I hold close to my heart. A snapshot of the woman who made me what I am today, my Mom. Thank you for letting me blather on and remember her as she was. If your parents are still with you, hug them today. Tell them everything you ever wanted to but felt stupid saying. Don’t wait. For those of you, like me, who are missing a loved one know a virtual hug is coming to you from me in lieu of the parent who would put their arms around you if only they could.