Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Telling it just like you're here.

Oh, Mother. I miss you so....

I've been here in your house, staying with Daddy since the day you died.

This house we moved to thirty years ago when I was sixteen and you were younger than we children are now. You made it a home. Let me pick out curtains that Irene custom made, and we had our friends here for slumber parties and late night swimming. Remember that Jeffrey was Johnny Appleseed in his school play one of those first years, and he sang and looked so cute?
I don't even remember our writing this, do you? After freshman year of college?
Every room here, every nook, cranny and drawer, has you in it. A scarf you wore to a soccer game, or a news clipping from your service to UMW or Church Women United. We keep finding little squirreled away stashes of photographs in unexpected places from mismatched eras and your handwriting is on the backs with names and dates and sometimes captions like, "Not a very good picture of Laura." These things have kept us laughing and crying, both.

Dana and I, along with Laura, went through all your clothing. That was tough. We girls all took things of yours that we wanted and we'll be wearing them -- Dana most of all, as she was closest to your size. Jeffrey laundered and folded the clothing you most recently wore, and declined my help to fold. He has been wonderful, as you know. You raised a good boy into an excellent man, Mother.

And Dana gave a hilarious and moving eulogy at your service. Everyone laughed. Smiled. Remembered how fun you were. Eric says she captured that part of you perfectly.

Yesterday just about dark a floral delivery came from one of  Daddy's friends -- a beautiful white camelia in a basket filled with fruit. A LOT of fruit. The lady delivering the fruit told Jeff and me that you banked with her at First Tennessee for years, I remembered her face.... but that she'd been the florist owner the last year and a half, and knowing you, she overfilled the basket with good fruit for your family. She, like everyone, remembered you as gracious and always smiling. I think that's one of the words about you I have heard most often: gracious. And it's true, that was your way.

I like to think we're making you proud here. Daddy has been kind of amazing, really. Very gracious himself and kind. I keep thinking that you're just a breath away whispering, "You just be the best Joe you can be," and with your encouragement, he's doing just that. The children have been lovely and such a comfort. Every one of them adored you, and my boy told me he knows your spirit lives on inside of his heart. Audrey finds your photograph in one of your church directories and says, "THERE's my Diggy!" The big girls have been wonderful with the younger ones, and I'm glad they'll all help the new baby know you. He hasn't gotten here yet, but little Leo's arrival is imminent.

Mother, I'll admit, I have some unkind thoughts toward people. People who didn't come see you for their own reasons, or were even unkind and dishonest. But I know you, you'd have said, Love them anyway. So I've bitten my tongue, and tried to do as you would -- offered kindness and cried and fussed about it later.

It's hard though, Mother. Because you deserved the best. You didn't deserve the pain and suffering of the last few years. You were supposed to live into your nineties and go on that cruise with me and Dana and the grandkids, go to San Francisco and England and wherever else with Daddy.... I can't face the open years head on and know that you won't be there.

For now, I focus on today, and just the tiniest bit more. It's too hard to do otherwise. I miss you terribly.

Last night I was flipping through television channels and that Hallmark movie Matchmaker Santa was on; the movie that was playing on the television at the Courtyards the last day I saw you before you died a week later. I gasped. You were watching the movie with the other residents while Daddy snoozed on the couch beside you in your wheelchair when my boy and I kissed and hugged you, told you we loved you and that we'd see you soon.

I did not know the next time I'd see you you'd be dead and I'd be seeing your body all cold and stiff at the funeral home. They kept you there for me to see you before the cremation. And even though I knew it was your body, and that your spirit had gone on, I wanted to say goodbye. I left you with a fresh coat of Viva Glam on your lips and kissed you goodbye.

On Friday, I picked up your ashes, and your death certificate. I sat in my husband's car in the parking lot of the funeral home with you in a box beside me and sobbed. I didn't drive back across town until I'd worn myself out and settled into gentle tears. This grief is a real bear, Mother. It hurts so damned much.

We're all relieved, though. Relieved that you are no longer suffering. You never complained. And yet relied upon us for everything. I know that was, as you only said a few times, terrible. And then you'd apologize to us for your needing us. We'd have done anything for you. Any one of us.

And today, I'm going to leave this house and go home to Nashville to my husband and child. I'm going to rent a car and drive back across the plateau to do the next things that need doing and start a job at a new school, help my child make sense of this loss, crump up with my husband in our bed and try to sleep.

It's hard to go, though.... Hard to leave Daddy. Hard to part from this house, from you in every room, in every memory, including that we ultimately couldn't keep you here until the end, even though it broke our hearts.

I'll be back next week. For Thanksgiving. And the beginning of Advent comes just behind that -- your favorite season. I have yet to understand how we'll get through it without you.

But just for today, Mother, I'm going spend some time with Daddy and with my brother, your only son, and pack up and go home to my house for a few days. I am anxious about the drive. I pray for strength and for calm. For safety as I ferry myself from my loved ones here to those there. If you would, please whisper your encouragement. I need it today.

I love you, Mom.

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