This will be my first year without a mother. I put this on here last year soon after she died:
I wear her sweater, a light-weight lacy off-white one that is great in air-conditioned restaurants. I feel her arms around me. I wear her cologne from a small bottle of Vanilla Fields and feel her scent surround me. I look through her pictures, write up her life, plan the music for the memorial service, contact family.
And I do strange things. I shop. I hear her say, “Take off my sweater.”
My daughter Peggy arrived from Virginia. We spend time together three times a year as we visit her in Virginia or she comes here on a yearly visit home. We always take a trip to shop at a favorite store. There is one in Virginia and one in Wisconsin. We wander and try on clothes, model them and give our opinions and yes, leave with pretty little bags.
“Stop, Carol. Don’t look at those price tags. That looks pretty on you. Just take it up to the counter and put it with the others.”
“Mom, what are you talking about? You never told me that before. You were frugal. I was, am frugal.”
“Frugal. Who cares. Buy those pretty clothes.”
Where are you Mom? I feel your sweater, I smell you scent, I look in the mirror and see your eyes.
“You just buy those pretty clothes.”
My mother's dying rallies my family around me: cooking meals, and in general helping out. Peggy comes, and, of course, since her siblings and nieces and nephews only get to see her once a year, they come by frequently. (When Peggy comes home, she fits right in like she lives here all the time.) One night my son calls, “We’re up in Baraboo. We’ll be there in ten minutes. We’re bringing dessert.” Chocolate cream pie. It is delicious.
Of course I know this will end after the service. Life will go on. Next week I’ll do the work of being my mother’s head survivor, taking all the materials to an attorney to help with probate, etc., writing thank-you notes.
And she never, in all my life told me she loved me. Never.
“Well, for goodness sake, Carol. Of course I did.”
“You know, you just know. Of course I did, of course. . .
And she is gone in the dust, slipped the bonds of earth and illness, has gone off dancing with my father and is talking to all those relatives in my books and finding out if my stories had any truth to them, the ones I made up but could feel those relatives over my shoulder telling me what to write.
I realize that my empathy for her turned to sympathy as things happened to her body I didn’t even know could happen to bodies, horrible things. I realize that as she deteriorated and could no longer do what she loved, I joined her in not playing the piano, not doing needlework, not reading.
She knew those things, even if she was in a nursing home and I never told her. She just knew.
And a few days after her dying, I get the piano tuned and now play every day. I get out the needlework. I organize a little pile of books to read.
“Of course I did. . . of course. You enjoy those pretty clothes.”
Carol Troestler Copyright 2008