Mother’s Day approaches, and I know that at some time unexpected I will find myself totally taken aback by tears, my heart suddenly stricken with grief. I think it will be today. But I won’t know until it happens.
My mother died on June 21, 2006. This date also happens to be the date of my father-in-law’s birth. He passed away July 5, 2005, and I’m certain that my gentle father-in-law understands when I say how glad I am that I don’t have to actually celebrate his birthday and my mother’s deathday on the same day. He left us suddenly, and the jolt was hard. Mom departed after dying little by little over months as debilitating ALS stole bits and pieces of her. I have never grieved her passing. I grieved when she told me her diagnosis. I grieved after each visit those last few months. But I didn’t grieve her passing. Her living was dying, at the end. And her dying was answered prayer. But, I miss her.
At the weirdest times actually.
The first year, Thanksgiving and Christmas were subdued and I was prepared for a little grief, but I had a 5-year-old and a 12-year-old, and I was busy, and I remember being grateful to have gotten through the holidays.
It was a few days before Mother’s Day when it hit. I remember that suddenly I felt completely bereft at the Hallmark Store – choked up, tears running hot, fumbling for tissues, trying to hold it together, grasping a set of cards for my mother-in-law (one from Ralph and me, and the ones the kids had picked out) and utterly unwilling to check-out and leave the store without cards for my mother. Mother’s Day still strikes me this way. All day I have a sense of incompleteness…
Teapots too. For a while, anytime I saw a teapot I would find my face wet, and be dumbfounded at my own reaction. I stopped going to antique stores. Lemon and lime anything. Lemon bars with powdered sugar on top, key lime pie, lemon shortbread cookies. I have not had Lemon Chess Pie since my mother died. Lemon things used to make my lip quiver. Now, I can find joy that my little daughter has a penchant for teapots, and lemon and lime anything. It’s just the oddest thing – or maybe not. She has her Grandma Midge’s complexion, heart-shaped face, and mossy green eyes. She has her Grandma Honey’s skill with a pencil, and turn-of-phrase.
I finally gave away the last piece of clothing that Mom picked out for Grace. It was a beautiful navy blue wool winter coat with a hood and a fur muff for her little hands. Mom brought that over when Grace was 3 years old, and it was a size 6 or 7. I remember being slightly annoyed with her, but she just breezily pointed out that it was a bargain, and Grace would grow into it, so just hang it in the coat closet until it fit. Grace loved that coat. The navy blue set off Grace’s porcelain skin beautifully, and she loved the fancy fur muff. It only got worn on Sundays so it was in really good shape when she grew out of it too fast. I have never been one to pack up clothes because they end up moth-eaten or yellowed. There are people who need clothes, so I pass them on. This navy blue wool winter coat with a hood and muff, I gave to a friend, for her little daughter who was 6 this year. I told my friend that it was the last piece of clothing my mom picked out for her grand-daughter and hoped that she understood. I think she did.
In early April, Grace and I went to a Home School Day in Smithfield, and toured among other things, a historic home, and I found myself blathering on about how my mother was a docent at Lynnhaven House in Virginia Beach, and the outfit that she wore, etc. The docents at Boykins Tavern were confused but listened politely. I drove home from Isle of Wight County, and as my eyes were delighting at the sight of tree-lined highway, branches misting green with barely discernible leave buds, my mind was ruminating on the day, and the realization struck that I never went to Lynnhaven House when my mother was a docent. She talked about it, and showed me her dress, and told me about funny things the children did when she gave a tour. But I was working and just too busy to go and I didn’t think it really mattered. But now I recall the countless invitations to various events on weekends, and holidays, and am wondering if maybe it did matter. And I can’t tell her how sorry I am that I didn’t go. Or how sorry I am for any number of things that have crossed my mind in the years, months, weeks and days since she has been gone.
This year, I was at least a little prepared because a friend’s husband has lost his mother. I have a card on my desk, signed and ready to go in the mail, because I know how Mother’s Day can be.
But it was the site of my mother’s sister’s daughter that I think will do it this time. An unexpected lunch, with family I so very rarely see. Eyes, shaped so like her mother’s eyes. Her mother’s eyes so like my mother’s eyes. An unexpected jolt of pain.
But my little daughter is 10 now, and she sits across from me, and I look at her, and my dad, and I talk about my son, and my husband, the family with which I have been so richly blessed, and I hold it together. Till now.