How do you say goodbye? When you know the end is coming and there’s nothing you can do to stop it, how do you say goodbye? How do you prepare? Do you spend every moment trying to be positive and happy? Do you cherish every breath that you can feel being breathed beside you as you look at photographs together? Do you say all the things you’ve been holding inside? Are the moments full of tears, smiles or both? When you’re waiting for the inevitable to happen, how do you make every moment count?
Mother, Mom, Momma, Mommy, Ma, Mum. My personal favorite is Momma. That’s how it’s listed in the contacts on my iPhone. Although sometimes I say Mom with a hint of “what are you talking about” in my voice. There are the times I say Mother. That one’s usually accompanied by a strident tone. Many different dictionaries define the word Mother as: a female parent. But oh it means so much more than that.
My mother hears all my stories and complaints. She tries to help when I’m sad. She calls just to make sure I’m okay. Sometimes she calls because she just needs to hear my voice because it’s been a while. She’s a touchstone. She started out the most important woman in my life and she still is. As I got older, we got closer; a friendship developed. She started to reach out and open up about her own life. I know she’s just a phone call away. I don’t know what I’d do if she wasn’t. The mere thought of not having her fills my eyes with tears that spill over the lower lid and wet my cheeks. I love and appreciate her so much. I can’t imagine my sister and I not having her. I can’t imagine my niece and nephew not having their Mimi. Hell, I don’t want to imagine it.
My Mom lost her Momma seven years ago. There’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t think about my Grandmother. I’m sure my Momma thinks about her everyday. How could you not? She tucked you in at night, she kissed your booboos, she dried your tears, she washed your clothes, she taught you to share, she sent you on your way and always has open arms to welcome you home; for a visit or brief respite from your life.
My Mom's family is full of loving Mothers. Mothers who would do anything for their children. Mother's who produced cousins that would do anything for each other. That would be me, April, Casey, Leah and Whit.
I'm the oldest (cousin and grandchild) so I’ve known them all the longest. I've been present at their weddings. I've seen their children as infants. I am blessed beyond all measures that they not only love me, but their children love me and I them.
I was closest to Janet while growing up. She’s the youngest of my Mom’s sisters. I don't know where that bond came from. Maybe she babysat me the most. I was the ring bearer in her wedding when I was 5. I wore little black shorts and a pair of black shoes that were too small and hurt my feet. I still remember the wet spot my tears left on her jeans when I cried because she was moving away. It was the right leg. Top of the thigh. I was broken hearted. I laid my head on that leg and cried and cried. She and I aren’t as close as we once were, but that happens with time.That doesn’t mean I love her any less. I can say that she is a fierce protector and defender of her child and her grandchild.
My relationship with Cindy (Casey & Whit’s Mom) developed as I got older. I had something in common with her. She wanted to do her own thing and did. She went away to school and left our small town in the glow of her tail lights. I did the same thing. I went away to college knowing I would return for nothing more than visits in the future. Cindy was also the Aunt that I could smoke cigarettes with and access a little bit of the rebel inside of me. I’m not sure she knows that, but it’s how I felt. I remember an instance when I was visiting her in Memphis and the two of us were riding in her car smoking cigarettes and talking. It was the first time as an adult that I remember being alone with her, no buffer. I don’t remember anything we talked about only that I was comfortable. She would move heaven and earth for children.
Janie (Leah’s Mom) was always fun. She's an Aunt by marriage, but retains her status even in divorce. I don’t see her very often and hardly ever talk to her via phone or text, but when I do see her it puts a smile on my face. She was unconventional. Different from the rest of my family. She was loud and rowdy in both speech and clothing. I loved being around her. I have two memories of her that stick in my head. One: I went to see Fatal Attraction with her as in under seventeen year old. When my parents saw it my Mother said she wouldn’t let me see it. Little did she know I already had. This blog entry may be the moment she finds out that bit of information. Hope I don’t get grounded. Two: Leah was guzzling from a sippy cup so fast that she got choked. Janie said, “Well, Piggy.” I found it funny then and I find it funny now. My sister and I still laugh about it more than 20 years later.
One thing I know is that all of these women have had an impact on my life. None more than my own Mother though. I tell her I love her every time I talk to her, but somehow feel it’s never enough. How can a child ever do enough to show his Mother how much she means to him?
Struck by the stark reality of an impending death, I was reduced to tears yesterday. When the treatments stop working and all you can do is wait how do you spend the time? What do you do when she’s no longer there?
I call my Momma to tell her when I’ve finished reading a good book (most recently The Hunger Games). Sometimes I even send her a copy if I think she’ll like it too. I call when travel plans start to firm up (like when I booked my flight to Leah’s wedding and told her I would be on the same flight as my sister and Casey). I call her for deep conversations or silly comedic stories that I know will delight her. She listens to me even when she has no answer. She’s there for me.
My Mom doesn’t have that opportunity anymore. Her Mom, my Grandmother, passed away as I said. She fought for 4 years, but lost the battle. Everyone had time to prepare, but when the inevitable happened, it happened fast. My Momma was there. Cindy was there. Janet was there. Most of the cousins were there.
There was time to say goodbye, but my Grandmother didn’t really want to hear those sentiments. I’m told she didn’t really want all those final words. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because they’re more for the people wanting to say them than the person having to hear them. Maybe it made the end more real for her. I don’t know. I didn’t get to say goodbye because I wasn’t there. The last time I talked to her I was standing on the corner of 47th Street and 8th Avenue. She didn’t really want to talk, but she did. I could hear the pain and tiredness in her voice. I don’t remember what I said to her or she to me, but I remember how she sounded. I prefer to access he voice in my memory as she says my name with the timbre that was my Grandmother. I loved her. I know she knew it.
Does the knowing it’s going to happen help one to prepare and cause less grief when it does happen? I don’t know. Loss is loss. I can’t even fathom it. I’m blessed to still have my Mom. She’s healthy. Cindy and Janet are healthy. Janie isn’t.
Life is for living and while we are still living we have to make sure we say the things we want to say. We have to tell the people we love that we love them. We have to stop stewing on the bullshit that makes us angry and forgive. I’m talking to myself here. I can stew. I eventually drain the pot, but sometimes the bottom has to be scraped clean where I’ve let it simmer too long. I’m getting better at it.
This may seem like the ramblings of an emotional person and I can accept that. I was emotional when I started writing it. I guess the point is I love my Mom. I appreciate her. We cousins of the aforementioned Mothers all appreciate, love and want to protect our Mothers. That’s a nice trait to have. We come from good stock.
Here’s to more laughter and games and talks around the kitchen table. Here’s to more surprise visits home. Here’s to more honest conversations. Here’s to laughter through tears. Here to memories that can’t help but be made. Here’s to making the most of every moment we have left with these women, our beautiful Mothers.
When photographs and memories are all I have left I want there to be no doubt in my mind that my Mother knew she was loved by me.