I still can’t believe that this is the way it ended.
When I moved to Seattle thirteen years ago to reconnect with my mom, I was sure that we’d find her a place to live, get her medicated, and somehow renew the relationship that was lost so many years ago on a muggy June day. And we did, just not the way I’d imagined it.
Now my neighborhood holds so many memories of my mother. The bus stop where she’d wait for the #5 after we had lunch together. The dingy-walled Value Village where we went shopping for baby clothes. That day she made so many Normal Mother comments, only subtly laced with paranoia. “You’ll need to remove those buttons so she doesn’t choke on them,” she noted as she held up an innocuous looking yellow sweater with the ill-fated button on the collar. “Mmmhmmm,” I murmured, as I put it in the cart; “mmmmhmmmm,” those words I said so often to my mother, glossing over the crazy in her words.
When I visited Mom at the Columbia Lutheran Home, just blocks from my house where she spent the last two years of her life, I thought about the scary future, when I would drive by and my mother would no longer be sitting inside. That future is here. It’s been seven months since I lay asleep beside her as she gave her spirit up and her suffering ended.
Sometimes it feels like it’s been years since that last day when the sun shone and the Beatles played softly in her room. Sometimes the loss is so fresh it feels like it’s only been days.
You never really stop missing them, that’s what my friend Betsy says. You’ll never stop missing them because they were your everything. It took Mom awhile to catch up, but Betsy was right. She was my everything. She may have worried over the murderous Brazilians taking over the house next door, and the bazookas that were about to shoot out of the taxi in front of us. She worried about these things because her brain was fragile and broken and the worry for all of us seeped into those cracks and out of her mouth, almost without pause. I may have wanted her to be so many different things: confidant, nurturer, mentor, guide – and I did, how I did. But instead I have new memories of her patting my back when I gave her a hug. Of her thin-lipped kisses on my cheek accompanied by a loud “mwah!” I remember the way she snuggled Spencer so tightly and the dimpled smile and delighted “Oh!” whenever she saw us.
Oh, Mommy, how we loved you. How we always will.
Thanks for reading, and for being part of her journey. It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything, and it feels good to see her face on my screen again.