My mom died about two months ago. We were very close, though since moving to Los Angeles four years ago, I didn’t see her as often as I had before. She’s also been very sick for a long time. So it was both expected, and not expected at all, given she seemed to always rally, much to the surprise of her doctors.
My husband, kids, and I attended the funeral via Facetime. I know she’d not have wanted me to fly, just like I know that a little part of her is annoyed that I didn’t fly anyway. We had the kind of relationship in which we were annoyed with each other and delighted with each other about 500 times in a day. I can still feel her, and a few weeks after her death, I was driving alone, and felt like she was there. So I drove for a little longer, and showed her my neighborhood, which in life she never got to see. And because she’s my mom, I showed her my favorite house, the one I like to drive by and imagine living inside. I know, if she was there, that she was excited to see it at last.
My dad and brother and uncles, along with a wonderful caretaker, were there for her in the end. I wish I had been, too. But it was also very hard for me to see her pain. I am pretty sure I made up reasons to be annoyed with her, because I wasn’t aware myself just how upsetting it was for me, to be around her when she was sick. But now that I have two daughters of my own, I realize that even if she wasn’t aware of what was happening at the time, she understands now. Just like I understand, when my own kids are scared, their empathy for me too large for their small bodies.
Just before she died, I sent her an amethyst pendant. She called to say she loved the chain, which was code for: that pendant is crap.
I used to call her a lot, but the conversations were frustrating. She couldn’t hear very well, and she was often on pain medicine. I realized that I could read to her, like I do with my kids, and I suggested we give up the catch-up phone calls, and I instead read a book. She was happy about this, and I was too. The book, The Talented Mr. Ripley, arrived on a Monday. I meant to call but didn’t get around to it. She died that Friday morning. I felt sad I hadn’t read a chapter to her. Then learned that she’d planned to put me on speaker, have her caretaker listen along, and then have the caretaker explain the plot to her once the call was over. So I think the upshot here, is: she knew I was trying, and she was trying too.
Having not formally said good-bye, I now understand that horror movie trope, that the unburied haunt the living. I feel her everywhere. I want to honor her when I feel her, but it happens so often it’s untenable. Like Covid has done with everything else, even loss is exaggerated.
I read Ripley on my own, and I think she’d have especially enjoyed the many afternoon cocktails the characters seems to have. But probably, I should have chosen Strangers on a Train.
A few days before Ripley arrived, she called to tell me to stop eating on the China. It had lead in it. She’d been out of it for a long time, and not in a condition to put those disjointed facts together, but on that call she was utterly lucid. I put away that china that very day, got the kids tested for lead (no detectable levels). On that call, she told me that she’d made the lead issue very clear to me upon delivering the china several years before. I had no memory of this. But I have never been a person who remembers details. I’m extremely disorganized. She softened and added, “I knew at the time, that had gone past you.” As in, over my head. And I remember feeling so warm in that moment, that she knew me so well. This was my mom before she got so sick. I’d missed her so much.
It feels weird to blog about my mom. For one, she really hated anybody talking about her. For another, I don’t want to be an opportunist. I have a book coming out, and I’m supposed to have a blog. But this is not the appropriate subject matter for any decent person, who’s trying to attract eyeballs and sales and all that. I’ve always wrestled with these issues in social media. I can’t explain why I’m posting about my mom, except that it feels good to do so. Because I don’t know how else to grieve for her.
A lot of people I’ve met feel they still needed something from their parent who died. Approval or love. I don’t have any of that. She made herself very clear every day. But I’m still so sad about it.