Anniversaries like these tend to creep up slowly. I, and maybe you, tend to start exhibiting symptoms of grief long before you, or I, recognize what they are. Crying for no reason, increased irritability and anxiety are just some of the things I've noticed I experience when the increasing "anniversaries" I've encountered in my life come to fruition.
You'd think these would be "old hat" for me by now. I know...we've all lost people. I just happened to have amassed a list of critical figures since childhood who have left this earth much earlier than either they or I were prepared for. And it sucks. And it's hard. And it really doesn't seem to get any easier the older I get. I've always been in awe of people who can funnel grief in a socially appropriate manner and then I secretly (or not so secretly) decide that these people are really just numbing out the real pain, or compartmentalizing it. I've never been good at either of these things in any part of my life, so....oh well.
So, tonight, while driving home, I spent most of the time thinking about the process of losing my mother and what that really meant to me. And I don't have any brilliant answers. Yes, it's the way it's supposed to be; I'd much rather be me losing my mother than my mother in the position she was in losing a son.
But about 40 minutes into the drive, I made the turn on 926 down by the Brandywine, over the bridge and crossed over the railroad tracks at Pocopson Road. And I turned my head left, which is the way I would have turned my car if I wanted to travel 5 more minutes to my mother's house. And I thought, without thinking, "I really should call my mom." And then I realized that wasn't even an option. And then I thought, "How could you even think that when you just spent 40 minutes debating writing a blog about your mother's death?" Crazy, huh?
And I think I have a couple of different answers to that question, and I'm guessing they are all right. First, it takes a long time to let go. It just does. I had a friend who recently lost her father say to me in an incredulous moment of grief, "Isn't it crazy how you lose them in pieces?" And it's true. You say goodbye in phases and those phases are dictated by your ability to face those dark places in yourself. You are always someone's child, no matter what your age. And that doesn't change when your parents die. It just transforms.
Second, I have found that part of me keeps my mother (and brother) alive by keeping them, always, somewhere close to the surface of my consciousness. My mother loved books; not the classics and not trashy romance novels. She loved historical fiction and psychological thrillers. But she loved them most when they were hardback. Paperback books didn't really cut it for her. She'd caress those things like they were the most beautiful things in the world. And anytime I pick up an overpriced hardback book, I have a piece of my mother. I can feel her in the room. It's true. And it's the same thing for me with my brother when I listen to 102.9. Yes...102.9. Not because he listened to that station but the classic rock (and for some reason, specifically Foreigner) is like sitting next to my brother. And that keeps him here.
And I think the other reason I so seamlessly thought to call my mother today is because, on some level, she is still here. In me. In Max. In my brother and my sisters and their kids. And even in our friends. That was the one thing that I thought about at length today on my ride home. My mother's funeral was full, not of people in their 70's like she was, but "kids" ranging in age from 40 to 55. Yes, a few were there simply to support us, never having met my mother, but so many of the "kids" in the room had connected with my mother (aka Mrs. Ciliberti, Mrs. C or Momma Joan) across the course of their lives. She had laughed with them, cried with them, told them to get out of her house, given them "the look" and even smacked a few across the head. And they loved her anyway. Just like the "kids" she had actually birthed. And that is a testament to life well lived.
Any mother who can mother those who have mothers without stepping on toes is by definition a mother. My mother was, and is, a true mother. And we were all very lucky to have her mother us. Even if we didn't know it at the time.