12. December 2004 · Comments Off on Mid-December ponderings · Categories: General

The semester is all but ended – some last minute changes to assignments need to be made, but I have until later this week to finish them. The mad rush in the part-time job is over as well – the deadline for completion was Dec 11, and the target was reached, at least on my part. It’s 12:20am, and I’m curled up on the couch with my laptop, enjoying the remnants of my evening’s fire, and occasionally gazing around at the peacefully sleeping hounds (2 of whom are sharing the couch with me).

A peaceful night, or early morning, and given to thinking quiet thoughts, and remembering good memories.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, as I’ve driven around my city doing this project for my part-time job. I’ve done a lot of talking to myself, and a lesser amount of talking to God, and occasionally, I’ve talked to Mom. Some of these internal conversations have centered around today’s date – Dec 12. What would it be like, I wondered. What would *I* be like on this date?

What does one do on a day like this? One part of me says “Stay home, and remember.” But a friend has offered to buy me lunch (or dinner), to celebrate my birthday and my new job. So… meet the friend, or say “I’m sorry, but I’m planning to be depressed on Sunday.” (I’m meeting the friend, but I left myself an opening to change my mind. She understands – good friends are like that).

I want to spend my day quietly… not rushing around, not working. Reflecting, and remembering. Honoring and affirming a life that’s gone, but also affirming that life goes on. So I’m planning on meeting my friend. We’ll eat, we’ll drink cappucino, we’ll reminisce and catch up on each other’s lives, and we’ll be restored by the fellowship.

And at some point during the day, either before or after meeting my friend, I will raise a chilled glass in silent toast – “To you, Mom – thanks for all you did. I’m glad I knew you, and humbled to be your daughter.”

There might be some tears, at that point, some moisture in my eyes that can’t be blinked away, and a lump in my throat that precludes talking, or even swallowing. And that will be ok. Being alive means feeling things. I don’t want to bury my emotions, drain them of power, suppress them into non-existence. I want to experience them, and acknowledge them, and move through them to the wonder that lies beyond. The wonder… that my mother, dead these 366 days, is still vibrantly alive in my thoughts, and in my heart. As long as someone remembers her, she will never truly die, and even though I can no longer reach out for the warmth of her hug, she hugs me every day, whenever I think of her and her constant and unyielding belief in me.

Indulge me, if you will, as I remember her. Or skip this post and read another. The choice is yours. My choice is to remember, and to honor the memory.

One year ago today… Dec 12, 2003, Mom went to sleep and never woke up. It was what she had wanted, when it was her time to go. Dad thought she was still sleeping that morning, because she had a slight smile on her face, but she was beyond sleep, even then.

As I drove from Atlanta to southern Ohio, behind the first bad ice-storm of the winter, I tried not to think, and to focus on driving. Singing along to the christmas CDs helped with that. But towards the end of my drive, I switched to Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas CD (their first one), and while listening to the instrumentals, my thoughts finally found a voice. In the last 2 hours of my drive home, I drafted out what became the words that I shared at the funeral. I’d like to share them here, if you’ll allow.

Other than marriage, the parent-child relationship is probably the most complex relationship we’ll ever experience. Who doesn’t remember either saying or hearing, at some point in their life, “I hate you! I wish you were dead!”

And then one day you wake up, and they *are* dead, and your entire life is changed forever.

Hopefully, the “I hate you’s” were replaced by “I love you’s” over the years. Mine were, and I’m eternally grateful for that.

I’m still trying to realize what all I lost last week. Before I can do that, I need to realize what I had.

Mom was so much more than just a label – “wife,” “mother,” “sister,” “friend.” She was a human being, full of the complexity that we all are made of. I’m not going to tell you that my mom was perfect – she wasn’t. But I’ll let you in on a secret — neither am I. πŸ™‚ She accepted my lack of perfection, and I learned that it didn’t matter if she wasn’t June Cleaver – what mattered was that she was my mother: the only one I’ll ever have. And now all I have of her are memories.

The nice thing about memories is that we can choose what we want to remember. I’m choosing to remember the good things, and the happy times.

I remember hot breakfasts on cold winter mornings before we would walk to school. I remember walking home at lunchtime to eat a hot meal that she fixed for us. I remember family dinners with home-cooked food, all made from scratch.

I remember our yard not having any grass, because all the neighborhood kids played at our house. I remember hallowe’en parties, with our basement turned into a haunted house. I remember a fairly happy childhood, with a mom who was involved. She had 4 kids in school, and juggled the class visitation and room mother duties somehow.

My mother, who was always nervous around large bunches of kids, became a den mother for my brother, and a girl scout troop leader for me and my sisters. She helped start an after-school activities program at our church.

As a kid, one of my major complaints was that she knew where the “off” button was on the TV set, and she would use it. πŸ™‚ Instead, we would play games, or do arts and crafts, or even – gasp – clean house. Back then, I complained. Today, I tell my friends about these times, and treasure the memories.

We’re in the middle of the Christmas season, right now, and for me, that will always bring memories of Mom baking. She’d start baking before thanksgiving, and continue on until… forever, it seemed like. We had a cookie tree — a small, table-top artificial tree, decorated with candy canes and Christmas cookies. No matter how often we ate all the cookies off the tree, there were always more to replace them. Pies lined the counter, at Thanksgiving and Christmas both. And Mom made her pie-dough from scratch.

She made her bread from scratch, too — twelve loaves at a time, every week. Four kids go through a lot of bread, after all.

And in the middle of all her Christmas baking, she would find time to bake me a birthday cake, every year. I don’t know how she did it all, honestly.

She cared about people, deeply and genuinely, and people responded to that caring. My brother brought home a friend in the early ’80s — Mom gave Tom a “certificate of adoption” for Christmas one year, and treated him as if he were another son. Tom’s still a part of our family, 20 years later.

She was a determined woman. She knew what she wanted, and she made it happen. Although she didn’t graduate from high school, all of her kids did, and all of us attended at least *some* college classes.

She was terrified of lakes and pools, but she made sure we all learned how to swim. She didn’t drive, but she made sure that we all got our drivers’ licenses.

It’s hard to grasp what we’ve lost with her passing. She was our historian, and our glue. She was our constant – she would always be there, she would always love us, she would always believe in us, and want us to be happy.

She was our “doer” — “mom will do that,” we’d say. Or “ask Mom – she’ll know.” And she usually did.

She was a unique woman – an original. Not perfect, but not too shabby either. And she had a fantastic sense of humor.

I called her for Thanksgiving – a day late, as usual. We talked about how I hadn’t mailed her card yet (or her anniversary card, from late Oct, or Dad’s birthday card from mid-November, or even her own birthday card from last January) — I BUY the cards, I just forget to sign and send them. πŸ™‚

A week later, I got 2 cards from her in the mail. One was my Christmas card, and the other one had a note that said “so you wont’ be embarrassed about how late your cards are.” I opened it up, and it was a Valentine’s Day card, for last Feb. I laughed out loud, and was going to call her and let her know how much I had enjoyed it. But it was the last week of the semester, and I had three papers due. Besides, I could tell her when I called her in a couple days, on my birthday, I thought.

I thought wrong, unfortunately. She didn’t make it to my birthday. But she knows now, how tickled I was. And she knows, better than I could ever find words to express, how very much I love her, and how much of her lives on in me.

We share the same faith, so I know I’ll see her again, as well. Until then, I’ll make do with my memories, and I’ll make sure I’m hanging onto the good ones.

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