Twenty years. Sometimes, that seems like a really long time. Other times, it seems like I went to bed and suddenly twenty years have passed.
Today marks the twenty-year anniversary of my mother's death. I have been thinking about it for the past few weeks. Not exactly dreading the day, but more like preparing myself for it. And not even that... I don't know. All I know is I miss her like crazy.
I told myself I wouldn't wallow in sadness. I told myself I would not spend the day remembering things that really make no difference in how I live now. Or, like how I was just entering my last tri-mester of my first pregnancy, and how giggly my mom would become when she would touch my swollen belly and feel her grandchild kick at her. I think it was then that it was finally starting to sink in to her that I was indeed carrying a child within my womb. It became real when she finally felt it kick. She made me promise her when we first found out that I was pregnant that I would not divulge the sex of the baby to her if we chose to find out. My dad wanted to know. My husband wanted to know. Mom and I didn't. I finally caved and found out. I was elated when I found out I was having a son. Mom called on me on October 1st to see how things went and if things were progressing normally, after my ultrasound. As hard as I tried, I kept letting it slip. She asked if the baby was okay.
"Yeah, Ma, he's just fine... the baby is fine." I even tried throwing in a few 'She's.' But, she knew. At first she was a bit miffed at me for letting is slip. Finally she said,
"A boy. So, I'm going to have a grandson." Her voice cracking at the end of the sentence. We talked of all things boys; things boys wear, things boys play with. Blue things. It was a wonderful conversation.
It was the last one I'd ever have with her. If only I had known it would be.
Two days later, she died.
I think about that day. I try not to, but the images flood in. My mom had been ill, lately. We knew she had an aortal aneurysm. We knew she had to really take it easy until surgery was an option. She became ill with a stomach virus. I had not spoken to her since the first of October. We usually spoke every morning. We would have our "Morning Coffee" every morning; I'd call her from my home in Germantown, MD to hers in Arlington, VA. I knew she was not feeling well, so I decided not to call. The next day, I knew she had an appointment with her doctor about the aneurysm. I began calling around 9:30. I kept calling. Hours passed. I was sitting on my bed, watching TV, the phone in my hand when I heard keys in the front door. It was Rob, my husband. He never comes home this early; something was really wrong. He told me that my mother was very ill, and was in the hospital and that we needed to go. Now. I prayed during the entire ride.
I will leave it at that. My mother died. Needless to say, I lost it. I was so distraught that my husband felt the need to call my obstetrician. He faxed over a prescription for Valium for me. I refused to take it. Instead, I started smoking -- behind everyone's back (to this day, I blame myself for Aaron's Asthma). Later, my pediatrician would try to reassure me that it wasn't enough to cause his Asthma. Whatever. So I snuck cigarettes behind the hospital. I figured, I can't drink. I can't take drugs. I need something; I'll smoke. Stupid, but I wasn't exactly thinking clearly.
Funny what I remember about that day. A lot of it is a blur, just flashes of images or scenes. Just about every family member I had was in that patient family room with us. I have to say, I am blessed to be a part of the best family, ever. Still, though the room was filled with loved ones, when I got the news of mom's death, I was suddenly all alone. I was angry with God for taking my Ma away from me when I needed her the most. Selfish, yes, but all I could think of was that my son would not have this wonderful person in his life. I saw my father fall apart. I mourned for him, too.
My mind then wanders to my children. I think about my sons, and what a loss it was (and still is) for them to never have been able to meet this wonderful woman. All of her ways and sayings. Gestures and mannerisms. Her silly giggles. Her cooking. What I would give for my kids to have REAL tacos. Mom's tacos. NOBODY made them better. Nobody. I think about all of the stories she could have told them. Maybe she would have drawn their portraits, too? They would have loved her lap. She had the best lap! They would have loved snuggling with her, hearing her hum a Spanish lullaby, and falling asleep in her arms.
I think about all of the questions I needed to ask her, and still want to ask her. Her recipes I never wrote down. That kills me. If there is anything you should do when your mom makes that special cake, casserole, or whatever, take the time and get the recipe! There are so many things I want to know about her family. Again, ask now, while you can. All of those parenting questions. Am I doing it, right? WWMD? What Would Ma Do?
And, of course, there are so many things I need to thank her for. Most of which, all of those times she would say in annoyance to me...
"Someday, when you have children, you'll know how I feel." Or "When you have kids, I'm going to sit here and laugh myself silly." Oh, to hear her laughter. I haven't heard her voice since that last phone call. I don't have her on video at all. In some ways, I'm glad, but in others... I want my sons to see and hear her. She wasn't aware of it at the time, but she was the best teacher. I am the parent I am today; all thanks to her. Thanks, Ma.
There are days when the boys will do something funny, or I'll hear something that I think is amazing and go to the phone and actually start dialing. Even now. Then I remember. Those moments don't happen as often as they did a few years back. At first, it would really freak me out. When that happens now, I think of it as mom just checking in on me. Like a pat on my shoulder. I touch it and smile. I say aloud, "Hey, Ma... " and tell her the story. She is there. She does hear me.
I am reminded daily about not only her love of animals, but their love for her. They just seemed to know that she was a friend, and would gravitate toward her. All animals loved her. That's where I got it from, I'm sure. And I still have and treasure her statuette of St. Francis, my namesake. Thanks, Ma.
She had a love for words that I always made fun of. She did the New York Times crosswords -- and completed them -- daily. One was never enough, so she had the book. And speaking of books, she is who gave me my love of books. I cannot sleep unless I read before turn in. Thanks, Ma.
All that knew her miss her giggles. Oh, how I miss her laughter. It was not only uniquely hers, but it was the kind of laughter that was contagious. She would occasionally get a case of the giggles for no reason, whatsoever. You know, the kind of giggle fit you'd get in English class during a test when you were to be quiet or else - detention? Those kinds of uncontrollable, tear-producing giggles that would find me giggling with her, and drove my father nuts. But his annoyance only made us laugh all the more. Christ, I miss that! I now get giggle-fits over nothing that puzzle and amuse my children, and annoy my husband. And I know she's giggling right along with me, puzzling the angels around her.
I miss just sitting on the stoop with her. Gossiping. People-watching. Talking about important stuff... and the not so important stuff. I miss playing Pictionary with her. My Aunt Louise and I were just talking about the times we played this and ended up in tears, laughing about how Mom got the word "door" and while one would normally just draw a rude square with a triangle over it and put in a tiny rectangle for the door, Ma would draw a house, the bricks, gutters, shutters, curtains, an elaborate garden, the address... and finally an elaborate door suitable for framing. What I would give...
Gentle, and kind, she cared about everyone. My friends called her "Ma." I wish I would tell her that my kid's friends call me that, now.
So, bear with me if I shed a tear. Bear with me if I listen to her favorite music. And though I am celebrating her today, allow me to borrow a quote a friend of mine said on the anniversary of her mother's passing;
Forgive me, but I am declaring October 3 officially unfair. If it were not the fact that my baby boy was born on October 13th (a Friday, too... Ma would have LOVED that -- She LOVED the horror stories and the macabre), I would not be a big fan of October. I can't do that, though. She loved October. She loved Opals. She loved Autumn. And frankly, so do I! Fall is my favorite season. Thanks, Ma.
What I would give to have my morning coffee -- even her favorite (and nasty) instant Taster's Choice -- with her, again. I still have her cup. Think I'll go have a cup.
I love and miss you, Ma. You're with me, always.