My sister visited a couple of months ago. And as she sat on the sofa and I in my corner chair I saw my mother in her face.
It made me wonder what traces of my mother there are in me.
I always considered myself my father’s daughter. But he is so long gone now, I don’t know–I don’t remember, except for his eyes and frame, what I could see of him in myself anymore. Aside from the occasional visits from my siblings, I don’t spend time with anyone who really knew him. So I have no one to remind me I somehow remind them of him.
But my mother, that’s a different story. My husband, my kids, my daughter-in-law, my friends, people in my neighborhood knew my mother. I wonder if I ever remind them of her.
My cousin’s wife lost her mother today. I never met her mother. But I’ve been witnessing from afar as her family has had to split up for months at a time to help take care of her. And how they gathered together and my cousin and the rest of the kids made it just in time to say goodbye. I wanted to reach out to my cousin and ask him to give his sweet wife a big big hug from me and and say how sorry I am. How losing a mother is like nothing else and something you can’t even imagine until it happens to you. But then I remembered this cousin lost his mother. And his step-mother. So he already knows.
I’m not afraid of ghosts. But I dread the emptiness that comes from the lack of a ghost–or some other sense of their presence–to remind us of those we love and lost.
For example, some of my kids headed out to my in-laws’ house this past weekend. I called my sister-in-law ahead and, fortunately without really having to explain, told her we are all a bit uncertain as to how to be at their house without my mother-in-law Barbara. Because I don’t know. And they didn’t know. And I knew this sister-in-law would extend her motherly circle around them and somehow help them through it.
When I lost my grandmothers, neither of them were in the homes where I remembered them best. So while I miss their presence in my life, I didn’t really have to revisit memories devoid of their presence.
And because my family moved from my both childhood homes long before we lost my mother, my mom passed away in her home, not our home. I wasn’t required to build new memories in it without her. And I don’t have any idea what it must be like to return to your childhood home empty of the beating-heart center of your growing-up universe–your mom.
So I worry about this upcoming Thanksgiving and not knowing how to fill that space that used to be just ours while everyone else went up to the mountains, and resort to feeling ghosts in quilt shops and Chuck-a-rama parking lots and the Payson Temple.
[Day 182 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]