… I’m not asking you to move on or forget it, but these are better days
… to be loved like a song you remember even when you’ve changed. ~~ Brandi Carlile
When I answered the phone that morning, I already knew she was dead. Nothing good ever comes from a phone call at 5:28 in the morning. When I left the night before, she was near death… always “near death”. I guess in a hospice facility that describes everyone — “near death”.
But still, that morning the phone rang, and I already knew. I answered it anyway, my sister said, “she’s gone”. I don’t think I said anything, maybe I just hung up, maybe I said okay, maybe I said I’m on my way. It wasn’t a shock and yet — it was, it was a shock.
I collapsed under the weight of the knowledge of forever being without a mother. I collapsed under the weight of all the things I needed her to tell me, all the things I needed her to listen to, all the things that wound my mind and my stomach in knots. But that was it… time was up. No deathbed revelations, no deathbed confessions, no deathbed secrets revealed — she was gone.
I’m sure my mother isn’t the only mother who could make ice water run through your veins with her glance. I’m sure she isn’t the only mother whose perfectly placed sigh could bring an abrupt end to any conversation. I’m sure she isn’t the only mother who could make you question your decisions as a competent 40-year-old as if you were 10 again — I’m sure of these things.
I’ve often wondered if people who get the news of someone dying in a sudden car wreck or a massive heart attack can process the news easier — probably not. But, waiting 15 months for the inevitable to happen is tiring… yes, I’d say it’s tiring. You think you’ll wait for the perfect time to say the words and to hear the words and you screw your courage and decide tomorrow will be a better time. There’s always tomorrow.
I drove to the hospice facility immediately — I was already showered and dressed, it’s not like I was sleeping that year she lived with me. A baby monitor in her room allowed me to hear every creak of the bed, every cough and nose blow, every turn of the page, every trip to the bathroom, every quiet calling out of my name for help — for a year, so… why sleep? I was always waiting for something to happen… waiting, always waiting for something.
I felt relieved to not be the caregiver and, of course, guilty at my relief.
I felt a new disconnect from things holding me back, not that my mother was consciously holding me back from things I needed to do, but her care was always fully on my mind.
Or maybe, she was holding me back.
The months, the years since her death have been a confusing time.
My body still fights sleep, it still wakes at the slightest creak, it still listens for my name.
My mind wandered and did backwards flips and tangled itself into tight knots of questions and confusion. My therapist must have been one hell of a girl scout because she has untied some horrendous knots in me.
The friend I looked up to more than any other person — my knots crept into her life… those knots, they weave their way around everything near like kudzu taking over a once manicured backyard. You cut one away and another grows twice as big… a noxious weed invading every crevasse.
It was a confusing time.
A time when it seemed the knots would stay forever — the knots of my mother, the knots of my friend, the knots of my failures, the knots of motherhood and womanhood and becoming a better me… the knots of another Mother’s Day.
Seems like a perfect day to help untie each others knots.
Mothers are a confusing lot, aren’t we?
We learn from our mothers, we attempt to recreate that amazing strawberry cake, that enchilada casserole we had at Christmas all the while cursing ourselves under our breath because we even try. We vow to be our own person. We learn to control the sighs and the icy glances, the all too familiar judgements.
Motherhood should be a collective. We have a much better chance of figuring it out together than we ever would alone.
This Mother’s Day, my children and I will eat out and go for a walk and I’m sure there will be a trip to the bookstore and we’ll go to the lake and feed the ducks and we’ll laugh and we’ll enjoy that time and when we get home… we’ll all retreat to our own corners and a few of my knots will untangle and a few more will loosen.
I don’t plan on being on my deathbed wondering if I was a good mother — I am always becoming a better me… these are better days. The stories I take with me won’t be worth confessing and the confessions I make will be well worth a listen. I won’t look at my kids and wonder if I sighed too much or judged too many outfits and boyfriends and girlfriends or used my icy stare too often. They won’t tell me anyway, of course. Who tells their mother things like that on her deathbed? They’ll wait and they’ll tell it to a therapist and the therapist will untie those knots… (maybe that’s how we can tell, the number of knots that our children have in them and the time it takes to untie them… maybe that’s how we’ll know) then they’ll write a post in their blogs about motherhood and its perils and its triumphs and how the bond between mother and child endures many things and maybe they’ll even post it on Mother’s Day… but, I know I am loved like a song they remember. Still… I wonder what it will reveal about me and my knots.