Monday, October 15, 2012

Missing My Mother

It’s been three and a half months since my mother passed away. In the week or so afterwards I was so caught up in the enormity of the thing, I never really had time to, for lack of a less hackneyed word, grieve. There were arrangements to be made with funeral homes and cemeteries. There was a funeral to plan. There wasn’t much time to devote to contemplating big issues of life, death, and loss. Then after all of that sound and fury had passed, our minds were fully occupied with the care of my Dad. To a large degree, the pass couple of months have consisted of hammering out a workable plan for what my father’s life would be like without Mom. Just recently, Dad’s life has begun to settle in to something close to a routine. Finally, last week I had some time to reflect on the fact that my mother is, in fact, gone.

Just before I traveled to Chicago, Pam was checking the messages on our old, seldom used land line. There she found a message from my mother. I listened to her words with a tightness in my throat. It was an uneventful message. She was calling to see of Pam could take her to a doctor’s appointment that she had forgotten about. It was not a good day for her. We could tell because she had that sadness in her voice that we had come to notice when she wasn’t feeling well. As I listened, I desperately wanted Pam to erase the message, but I said nothing. I preferred not to remember her this way.

When I was in Chicago, I had long portions of the day with very little to do. In my mind, I kept hearing her voice on that message, one I wished so much that I had never heard. During the Presidential debate I was texting back and forth with my son about the debate, but mostly we were enjoying talking with each other and catching up. When it was over, for an instant, I thought that I should call Mom and let her know how Patrick was doing. I always liked doing that with her. I’d call and tell her what the latest news was with Kaitlin or Patrick, and no matter how she was feeling or sounding when she took the call, within a few minutes she was on top of the world, so proud was she of her grandchildren. I wanted to talk with her about my kids. I wanted to ask her what she thought about things. I wanted to get her riled up about something since she always did her best talking when she was in a bit of an uproar. But the line was dead. She wouldn’t answer. She couldn’t answer. The full weight of the fact of her loss hit me on a treadmill in the workout room of the Michigan Avenue Marriott.

When I got back in town, I visited her grave for the first time since her funeral. Nothing. I felt nothing. She’s not there, for one thing. It brought back memories of caskets and funeral homes, and the slippery merchants of death that I had to deal with for 48 hours so that she could be placed in that spot. Instead of comforting memories of a wonderful, warm human being, I was thinking about people trying to sell me state of the art burial products and writing checks that would have appalled my mother. I could almost hear her voice saying…”That money should have been given to Lottie Moon, and I should have been buried in a pine box in the backyard!!”

Perhaps I’m a bad son for not spending the last three and a half months racked with sadness and longing. Or maybe I grieve differently than most people. I’ve never lost someone this important to me before so I have no prior experience on which to draw. All I know is…I miss my mother.