My mother died nine years ago today.
I’m not trying to be maudlin; that’s just how it is and what can you do about that? Some sentences are like that, especially when they push against the swelling wave of all the Mother’s Day messaging that starts rolling towards shore this time of year, crashing into me the second Sunday of each May and leaving me soaked in some unpalatable mixture of longing and resentment.
Each Mother’s Day, the fact that I myself am a mother, that Rowan and Isaac are going to bring home some kind of sweetly crafted double–Mother’s Day gifts, feels like an afterthought: that’s nice, dear, but where do I send my card?
Okay, that last sentence was maudlin.
But that first sentence: “My mother died nine years ago today.” It has two parts, and I am pondering the difficulties of both: the simple modifier-subject-verb of the first half and the descriptive clause (is that what we call that? I’m supposed to know those things, but today I’m not looking anything up. And is “modifier” correct?) of the second half. “Nine years ago” is just as unbelievable as the fact that she actually died — how is it that she’s been gone for nearly a quarter of my life? And yet, she shapes it, informs it, almost daily, and the memories and emotions are as clear now as they were then, unless I’m fooling myself into thinking otherwise. Am I?
That’s the most difficult thing about death — what I know today about the past nine years and what my mother doesn’t, can’t. Those two boys, of course, but all the tiny, daily things that make up a life, like what we’re having for dinner and that the roof is still leaking. I imagine daily phone calls in which we discuss these things; I imagine seeing her name pop up on the call display and sighing because I have things to do besides talk; I imagine picking up the phone anyway, every day. I console myself with the ways in which she does shape my life. I talked about it with a friend in Los Angeles last week, as she and I made up the guest bed in her home for me. “Really,” I kept protesting, “you don’t have to help. I can do this by myself.”
“Nah,” she said, stuffing a pillow into its case, “I can’t let go of the way my mother raised me.”
And we talked about that, the ways in which neither of us believe in ghosts but feel our mothers’ presence all around, live our lives according to (occasionally, or often, in defiance of) the way they would have, but always with them around us.
So she’s gone, has been for nine years now. But she’s here, too, so today, Sunday, every day, we’ll focus on that.