Crossing the river, by feeling the stones
“To My Mother on Her Special Day.” That was the title of my Mother’s Day post, written just one year ago. I remember that day so well. Mom was wearing her blue nightgown, and her hair was a bit spiky from a recent hair cut at La Ritz. Dad bought Mom several books-on-tape for Mother’s Day. I remember how small she looked peering over the two large bags full of books. She let out her tell-tale ‘ohhh’ as she assessed her stash. Dad also bought her a Hallmark card, which included a personal voice message: “kick up your heels and dance the watoosie.’ The card quickly became a Mary Lawler tracking device. We could tell her location in the house just by virtue of that stinking jingle. She had a habit of fidgeting with items once in hand. The card was a perfect sensory item for her. She spent half the day opening and closing, opening and closing the card. Half-way through a movie, we’d hear ‘kick up your heels and dance the watoosie.’ On the phone with Alison, and then ‘kick up your heels and dance the watoosie.’ Heading to the bathroom, ‘kick up your heels and dance the watoosie.’ By the end of the day, we were all giving Dad the stink eye. But it was great. Mom loved it. We loved it. The card was a fitting tribute to what we were feeling at the time. I remember reflecting on whether Mom would be alive for another Mother’s Day. Though I had a sense that she wouldn’t, I remember consciously trying to ‘kick up my heels’ and enjoy the moment with her.
That morning, I read out loud my Mother’s Day note to her. She cried, and so did I. Through the tears, she said that she wasn’t going anywhere, and for that day, she wasn’t. She was as present as her body would allow. After a nice morning and afternoon together, we drove to Tulsa for dinner at Los Cabos – Mom’s favorite restaurant. We had a helluva time getting a table, and an even more ghastly time trying to get Mom in and out of the toilet. By then, she was starting to lose her ability to stand, and required fairly constant assistance. We had a difficult time maneuvering in the Los Crapos non-handicapped friendly bathrooms. Bathroom drama and all, we still had a nice time and it was good to leave Stillwater, even just for an evening. We had a nice laugh on the way home once we realized that we had driven off with the restaurant beeper used for seating. Take that, Crapos!
I remember the car ride home. Mom and I were sitting in the back seat and I was sitting close to her side to help prop her up. At one point, Mom started buzzing my hand. God, I can remember how that felt and how I tried desperately to hide my tears. I can remember staring out the window and thinking how unfair it all was. How absolutely unfair. Later that evening, we Skyped with Craig and Erin in Denver, and gave Mom the rest of her presents,which included new outfits.
Fast forward a year and here we are, welcoming the first Mother’s Day without Mom. Erin, Diane and I have been reflecting on this day and what it means. For me, though Mom is no longer with us, I still feel compelled to celebrate as if she were. This was her special day: no reason the festivities should stop simply because she’s gone. She would want us to be happy and to try to move forward from this grief. And I am, though slowly.
I spent this Mother’s Day weekend at the beach with friends. In some way, I felt like I was doing her memory justice by doing something joyful and less lonesome and sentimental. She would want us to continue on with life, while also finding moments to reflect on what a life without her means. So far, it means a weird mixture of emptiness and longing, pride and strength. While I feel numb and hollow, and it’s hard for me to think of Mom and all she endured, I also feel proud, and as if I’m doing her memory justice. Nothing is as sad as losing yourself. So far, I feel that I have done my best to keep true to who I was and who I am. For all that we’ve gone through, we’re still here. We’re still a family.
I think Mom would be proud. I miss her. I wish life was different and that she was still here. I wish I was back in that car, holding her hand, telling her that I loved her. Like the milestones before it, Mother’s Day is hard. Life without her is hard. It’s a deep pain that is shared by Diane, Erin and Dad. We’re just taking it one day at a time, slowly crossing the river by feeling the stones. That’s all we can do.
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