I was at the grocery store last week buying anniversary cards for my husband and in-laws. After making my selections, I turned to walk down the aisle and glimpsed the holiday card section.
Pink . . . crap. Mother’s Day . . . crap.
“Nope,” I whispered and quickly walked by, looking straight ahead. Once home, I immediately informed my husband he had to buy his own Mother’s Day cards this year, I couldn’t do it. No way. The thought of standing in front of that screaming pink wall of mom love was too much. It had public breakdown written all over it.
I knew the day was coming, but the idea of it hadn’t locked into my brain yet. It was jumbled up with thoughts of our mini-vacation prep, an upcoming concert date, girls’ night out plans, and all the other daily noise. Then the greeting cards appeared and brought the date front and center. At first, I felt like I was forgetting to do something, then the suck came—I didn’t need to buy a Mother’s Day card this year. I didn’t need to shop for a gift or pick out flowers.
It was just another reminder that my mom is missing from the table.
You see, I haven’t felt the constant ache some people talk about after losing someone. I’ve only cried a handful of times since the service. I’ve never accidentally picked up the phone to call her. To be honest, I’m relatively at peace with the situation. When I realized these things a while back, I began to wonder if something was wrong with me. Shouldn’t I feel more? Shouldn’t I be more upset? A consummate Sagittarius, I had to get to the bottom of my seemingly lackluster grief experience. And I did.
Think of a wedding reception. There’s the immediate family table, the friends’ table, the aunts’ and uncles’ table, the co-workers’ table. You’ve invited those people because they fill a particular niche in your life, they inhabit a unique space. For me, when I want to be told only what I want to hear, I call my best friend. When I need objective, sometimes ugly, truth and sage advice, I talk to my sister. When wife life and motherhood get to be a grind, I have dinner and (several) drinks with my girlfriend. Well, my mom occupied one of those seats and filled a huge space at the family table.
I loved the way she would ask after my son during our morning phone calls, “So, how’s my baby doing today?” She found humor in all of his antics, even the naughty ones. I could count on her for a good complaint session, especially when it came to men. She was an excellent gift-giver, thoughtful right down to the ribbons, but the best was her excitement and joy in giving it.
Family gatherings never seemed complete until Mom showed up.
You might be treated to a colorful commentary about their latest community center event or a fiery tirade about the snippy receptionist at the doctor’s office. And there was always nonsense and silliness in abundance, from her words to her gestures. Goofy nicknames. Little jigs through the house. Her vocabulary alone prompted my sister and me to write a book of her sayings as a Mother’s Day gift one year. After flipping through several pages she asked, “Is this a book of all the stupid stuff I say? God, I didn’t know you kids were listening so close.” Absolutely Mom, every single word.
So I guess mine is a quieter grief, a sense of unfilled space. Small remembrances and passing thoughts of “Oh, right, that doesn’t happen anymore.”
I think my serenity comes from having been a daily part of her journey from life to death, right up to the last breath. It wasn’t sudden or unexpected, we knew the problem and the end result. And the day of her passing was thankfully one of peace and calm. There was no struggle, just a quiet letting go.
Without question, I miss my mom terribly. The sorrow will always be there, sometimes a roar and other times a whisper. But I also know that even though she left the table, she’ll never leave the room.
Originally published on the author’s Facebook page