Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Note to self: how are you?

Sometime in early January, I put a note on my calendar; specifically a note on March 28th that read as follows: "How are you?"

March 28th marks three months since my Mom died. Like many people, I have picked up the daily responsibilities that don't go away, no matter how numb I feel. I've rejoined the workplace and have found equal measures of distraction and panic there over these past three months.

I've felt bereft and heartbroken. I've wanted time to pass quickly so the loss would feel softer and more distant; I've wanted time to stop completely so I could just sit quietly with my sadness and give it its due.

So, Renee, how are you?

I've wanted to call my Mom just about every day; sometimes several times a day, and many evenings when I had time on my hands and knew she would enjoy a story about something that had happened that day. I've wanted to give her extremely good news and have her celebrate with me; I've wanted to share frustrations and feel her comfort. I wanted to hear about her day; her stories about her lifelong friends she saw regularly; her updates from her many visits to half a dozen doctors.

Events that are coming up, including Easter (when she still insisted on coloring eggs every year and putting out baskets of candy), my son's senior recital that would find her bursting with pride, and the births of two babies that are due to join our family this summer, will all be missing one tiny scrap of happiness for me because she won't share them and take absolute joy in in each of them.

But really, how are you?

I'm a little different than I was three months ago. I've lost a touchstone of sorts; a person who could be my rock, my cheerleader, my sounding board and my challenger, always accompanied by unconditional love. The new me has one less lifelong friend in the world; someone who knew me like no one else does.

In between the meetings with the attorney; or my niece who is selling Mom's house; or the insurance companies who never seem to request everything they need from me at one time, I try to separate the pile of paperwork from the emotions that pile up and then crash from time to time. I've apologized to my husband and sons for being distracted and upset about "estate" things that tend to take over my life from time to time; and have thanked God for their understanding.

The questions don't seem to stop. Unanswerable, of course: questions like why I didn't do one thing or another for her, why I didn't insist on doing one thing or another instead of accepting her resolute nature about what she could do on her own.

Some of the questions are specific: why didn't I go clean her house once a week? Why wouldn't I have made it my job to pick up her groceries and run her errands? Why didn't I help her organize her basement while she and I could have laughed together about the chaos that my Mom preferred to think of as temporary until she could "get to it."

Why didn't I ever buy her an amazing hat and take her to the Kentucky Derby, her favorite sporting event of all time?

Not one of these things was on her list of "things Renee didn't do for me." It's all on me; I know that. But they're all part of my answer to the original question: how are you?

I'm hanging in. Doing what needs to be done. I'm laughing; I'm crying. I'm not great but I guess I'm okay. I miss her.


Michael Treyder said...

"I've lost a touchstone of sorts...someone who knew me like no one else does." That particular paragraph struck me in its eloquence. i've only experienced such a heartfelt letting-go once another time - when i took my friend out for drinks after his mother passed away. there was a particular moment while we both sat in silence; his 6'2" frame and voice shook for an instant: "no one in the world will ever love me like me mum" (he was irish). it broke my heart in two. the point of my digression is that - i can only (and with much humility) identify with you to a fraction of a degree, but..you know, maybe your mom has a different list too. you know, of all the things that she didn't get to do for you and with you. i guess this is my roundabout way of saying that she misses you more than words could say and that shed rather be here with you and the family. I also know that she could probably feel these words as lovingly as you wrote them and i bet she would be writing the same thing where she is. i'll pray that you two can meet in your dreams. until then, do take care of yourself and keep up the good work that you're doing by being as present for your family as much as you can. and like i've said before, thank you - for demonstrating that rarest of courage for readers like myself - the courage to soldier on.

renee said...

I'm overcome with emotion after reading your very kind and empathetic words, Michael. Thank you so much for taking a moment and sharing your support with such a sweet and generous spirit.

Anonymous said...

Remember, Renee, those whom we love never really leave us. They find immortality in the hearts and memories of those who loved them, as your columns so eloquently demonstrate.


renee said...

She will always be part of me - you're right, Joe. And smiling, laughing, listening and loving life in my mind and heart. Thank you, my friend.

wordgirl said...

After my dad died, I started writing down little things as I remembered them. The way he'd hold my mom's coat for her...then clamp the sleeve shut so she'd get stuck when she put her arm in. The things he'd sing. The way he laughed. The way he looked in a certain shirt that brought out the blue in his eyes. I cried--sobbed--when I did this, but was glad I did. When I reread them now (14 yrs later) I smile because--inexplicably--some of these things have faded in my memory. Capturing your memories of your mom might help you remember all the "dids" instead of the "didn'ts" and see that you truly did do the things that mattered.

renee said...

Thank you for sharing that! Such a wonderful tribute to the memory of your Dad - I almost feel like I know his - even just a little bit. I do have one very precious, very quiet memory of the final afternoon with my Mom, before she was whisked off to the hospital and the world started to fall apart. She and I, alone in her room, and I was just holding her, she was quiet and calm, and (I think) mostly resolved to what was inevitably coming. She and I had a conversational quirk - where we would say "my" before greeting each other, as in "Hi, my Mom!" Or she would call down from upstairs when she heard me come in, "Is that my Renee?" That last afternoon, we both said it to each other: "My Mom." "My Renee." I think that's all we needed to say.