I wonder……What would she think of me now? Is she proud of me? So many questions swirl around my brain each year as I travel back to where I grew up. So many questions bouncing like a super ball set free, expelling it’s energy with erratic intention and force. Sometimes it hits hard and other times it is just a gentle nudge to look closer at some of these unanswered questions. When it hits hard, it can stop me in my tracks and can take my breath away. That sharp realization that I am alone in a family whose lost it’s matriarch at a young age. She was our home, our comfort, our mother.
As a family we lashed together in a moment of utter devastation and necessity to survive the loss, truly a united front. We showed everyone how strong we were just like she taught us.
What we looked like from the outside is what mattered, how we felt was always to be kept quiet and tucked away.
So we fixed our makeup and put on the show that we were strong when in reality, it was hard to find our breath, almost impossible to complete a thought, and the thought of living without her was almost unbearable.
I was home that summer when she was diagnosed with cancer.
She didn’t want to call everyone individually, so she had a gathering to tell all of her close friends that she has 3 months to live. I stood behind her as she told them and I watched their faces, some cried, some asked questions and most sat in shock. The timer on her life was about to run out and I had a front row seat. I helped my mother plan her funeral while my 2 year old daughter played around the house. I watched her good days and bad days. I played hymns on the piano so she could choose what she liked best for the service. She had me edit her obituary that she wrote, to ensure that nothing important was left out or missssspelled.
I offered to read a passage at her service. I helped her eat when she began having trouble and held the bucket while she then threw up the food I just fed her. I still wont/can’t eat watermelon. I helped her shower when she lost that ability. I helped her put on make up the last time she was able to leave the house. I took her to doctor appointments. We kept moving forward as she was slowing down. I remember sitting on the couch and her asking me if she and I were ok.
If we had anything else we needed to talk about before she died.
I lied and said, “We are ok.” How could I possibly be ok? You are going to be dead soon is what I wanted to say. I had a million questions. I wanted to know everything but I didn’t know where to start. I ate casserole upon casserole while she lay waisting away in bed. I sat in the darkness of the room and watched as the last breath left her body.
And just like that, she was gone.
Twenty three years later I wonder….. what she would think of my four children. Three she never got to meet, all four she never got to see grow up. She didn’t get to see how I turned out. I had recently been divorced before she died. I worry that I caused her great pain because of it but was afraid to ask when I had the chance. She didn’t know that I finished school that year and became a school teacher. I missed having a mom to call all these years. I did dream she called me and asked me who was watching my daughter. I told her Uncle Kurt was watching her but how could she be calling me because she was dead. Needless to say she never dream called me again.
I never got to apologize for being an ass.
Every year as I travel back to South Dakota, this is the journey I take and I wonder……..