My mother is dead. She has been gone for five and half years, not that I’m counting.
Well, okay, sometimes I count.
But grief is forever new. When it shows up, it’s as fresh and fertile as a garden in spring thaw: you step into it and immediately are sunk into a depth you didn’t even know was there.
It hurts less. But the ache is the same.
I’m working on my book. Not as fast as I need to be, and not with as much dedication as the task requires. Apparently, I’m working on myself, too. Still. Forever. Always.
But working on my book means I am spending days sitting in my breathtakingly beautiful conservatory — a room she would have loved beyond measure, charmed to the hilt that I would end up in a house with such an indulgence. She was quite inclined toward the fancy. (And so well might I be, yes, it’s true.) And as I am drafting out the timeline of our extraordinary relationship, I keep thinking to myself, “Oh, was that in 1979? Or later?” And the person I want to ask about all that … is gone. She disappears and is dead at least a dozen times a day now, because she is so alive in my head now that I am getting deeper into the book.
I have so many things I want to ask her, still. How do I get my asparagus fern to perk up? Misting it isn’t helping. How many times would you boil the orange peels for our candied holiday treat? Mine were still bitter this year even after three rounds. When did she enter menopause? When did she start dying her hair red instead of black? Who ultimately was the most important influence her life? Her father? Her therapist? Her lover? My dad?
What did she really think of her life in the end?
Did you think you were a failure, Mama?
I always thought she was a hero. A survivor of so many layers of regret.
I never called her Mama until she was dying. She was Mom, always. But in the days that I was fully taking care of her, the tenderness in intoning the two syllables of “mama” felt more right. And it comforted me after she was gone. Sometimes I would feel a memory of her so strongly I would take in a sharp breath, and then whisper “Mama.”
She is forever my Mama now. And I am still taking care of her. Missing her, dreaming about her, and hoping and praying that I will do her justice—her mightiness and her weakness nearly equal in size—as I go deeper into the work of trying to tell our tale.
I love you, Mama. And I wish you weren’t gone. Still. Forever. Always.