Almost a year ago today, I was writing about my upcoming high school reunion. And then, all of a sudden, I didn’t care about my reunion. For a long moment, I wasn’t sure if I cared about anything. But, almost immediately, it started coming back to me: Mama. 3B. My brothers and sisters. My two best friends. The King. Even Barky, although his recent interpretive dance entitled Feast of the Stolen Zwieback While Imprisoned in the Family Car, with the sequel entitled Digging Crumbs Out of Every Damn Crevice in the Family Car has me rethinking how much I care for him.
But seriously, without all the beautiful people who I’m fortunate to know, I never would have made it through the manic months, following Mom’s death. At times, I need them all now just to get out of bed, to walk forward, to help me find the edge of this sadness that I sometimes feel creeping over me, entangling me, smothering me. This last weekend, my family all got together at home for a sense of closure, to come back together a year later, and to move the piano out to my sister’s house, so my niece can play it.
After much deliberation, I decided not to go. It is a decision that still makes my bones ache with the feeling of being pulled apart from the ends, but it was the right decision.
While they were there, I talked with Sister #1 briefly, before she, Sister #2, and Brother #2 headed into San Francisco to roam where Mom did on her final day in her beloved City by the Bay. I suggested that they head to what Mom called “the BV” for an Irish Coffee or three, since they were going to be down that way, and because Mama and I have fond memories of Mom getting us all lit up at the BV on Irish Coffee. That was the second time that happened–the first being on a tour of the Anchor Steam brewery, which the three of us thought would work out better if we went before lunch.
Did I mention the free tasting at the end of the Anchor Steam tour? (Do you really think we went to see the Laverne & Shirley conveyor belts?) Yeah, so after Mom had walked into the brewery owner‘s office with her half-full glass in hand, introduced herself and settled in for a chat about one of our neighbors who she thought he might know, Mama looked at me and said, “I think I’m getting pretty buzzed.” By the time we left, Mom and Fritz were best of friends after having determined five minutes into their half-hour chat that it was Fritz’s father who would have known our neighbor, who invented a few handy things for him. And Mama, Papa, and Mom were all at least a coupla’ sheets to the wind. A splendid time was had by all, which was followed up by a fantastic evening visit–as always–to see Funk Daddie, one of my two best friends, in Berkeley.
After those memories flashed through my brain as I continued talking to my sister, I remembered what Mom said after Dad died, following a year-long battle with a brain tumor. She said that in the short term, we would likely remember all of the painful and ugly parts of the end of Dad’s life, but that over time those would fade and be replaced by the overwhelming volume of the rest of our memories of him. Then, I could do no more than hold on and hope that Mom was right–and she was right, as she almost always was. Now, with her words and my own experience, I see that, mercifully, the same process is happening now, although now what’s fading isn’t the memory of Mom’s suffering–as far as we know, there was none–but of the shock and agony of losing her so unexpectedly.
That’s not to say that there aren’t hard moments. Although I made light of the state of it, as I did to Mom whenever we talked about it, my baby book is something that I’ve avoided, consciously and subconsciously, for the past year. And with good reason; going through what are really trivial scraps of paper was a grueling evening of crying so hard that my throat clenched shut and I had to gasp for air. It wasn’t always the content of the notes, more often it was just seeing what she had saved–the pamphlets, the brochures, the wristbands, and so on–and how similar it was to what we saved after 3B was born. It made me feel as though, knowing how much I love 3B, and seeing how similar Mom’s behavior was toward me, I might now understand a little bit about the depth of her love in a way that I couldn’t before. And that made me wish I could tell her that.
Of course, there are a lot of things that I wish I could tell her. I wish she could see all of 3B’s movies, although I’m glad she got to at least see how happy he is to wake up every day, a joy that he still possesses and that still infects me. Mom would have been glad to know that, having always believed that I was too sensitive, too prone to suffer slights and sadness. She was, of course, right about my sensitivity, but I would have loved to have used 3B as a starting point to explain to Mom how I agreed with her about my nature, how her observation long ago made me think about how I engage the world, and how I’ve steadily worked to make my sensitivity a strength rather than a burden.
Then again, she probably already knew all of that.
In addition to the things I wish I could tell her, there are things I wish that I could hear from her, things that can only come from Mom. One thing I did hear from Mom was back when Dad died. She told all of us kids that we’d likely have some regrets about how one event or another transpired through Dad’s struggles with cancer and treatments, and she told us to remember that we had made the best possible decisions we could at the time with the information we had, given the situation. So yes, there were times when we got frustrated with Dad or times when we took some time for ourselves or, like me, lay down for a nap on Thanksgiving afternoon, knowing the end was near, but being bone-tired, and being awakened by Brother #2 saying that Dad had pretty much stopped breathing and that everyone was gathered around except me. And Mom reminded us that all of that was OK, that we didn’t need to hound ourselves with regrets, that the sadness itself was enough of a burden.
And, this weekend, as my bones ached, I was glad again for Mom’s comforting words, as always.