It's a funny thing about Moms. You don't have a first memory of them. They've just always been there. Then they're not, and the shape of your world is forever changed.
These past days I've been trying to get used to the idea of a world without my mother in it. Since she's been with me for almost 62 years, and only gone for a little more than a week, I'm expecting this to take some time before it feels at all normal.
The past several years with her were a real struggle, and the last few months were exhausting - for her and for me. She was living in a state of constant confusion and anxiety, and I was keeping my phone close at hand for the inevitable calls from the nursing home where she lived. Declining health, I've learned, isn't very pretty.
Now it feels strange that nobody is calling about her. It feels strange when reminders pop up on my phone to facetime with her, but she's not there anymore. I'm sure this is a very normal part of the grieving process, but so far I keep waiting for someone to tell me she didn't die after all, there was a mix up and my world hasn't actually turned upside down.
She's been on my mind almost constantly, and especially late at night when I'm about to fall asleep. So many memories float to the surface, and the sound of her voice still comes through. I imagine that will fade with time, so right now I'm enjoying that I can still hear the ring in her laughter, envision her putting her hand up over her mouth as she giggles over something. "Hey guy" or "hey lady" (how she greeted just about anyone she knew) keep coming through.
I never actually liked Bruce Springsteen, but she sure did. Right now the memory of the two of us driving through Glenwood Canyon, headed for Grand Junction, sun roof open, and the CD player turned up way too loud, two gray haired ladies singing the lyrics to 'Born in the U.S.A.' off-key - well, that's my definition of priceless right now. Seriously, if it was up to her, I bet she'd want that song played at her funeral. I'm expecting we'll go with Amazing Grace, or something similar, but if she was allowed to choose...... there's no telling.
There were years when we didn't see each other very much. We never lived closer than 1000 miles apart from when I was about 25, and sometimes life situations and finances kept us from visiting as much as we'd have liked to. But once in awhile we got it right, and took off for adventures. For the next week or so I'm going to re-remember those adventures and share them here. My mother was a writer at heart, so there's no better way to honor her memory than to write about her.
There's the story of her and her sister dragging a dead alligator out to scare people. And when she wore that raincoat and stood up in the Maid of the Mist to see Niagara Falls, and the road trip we took across Texas to see every beat up house we'd ever lived in, drinking margaritas by the Riverwalk in San Antonio, while singers serenaded her with Yellow Rose of Texas; the road trip where I drove right into the woods in pitch black night.....
And maybe after I work my way through a few of those stories, I'll have come more to grips with the fact that she's really gone. It's quite okay with me if the sound of her laugh still rises to the top now and then.