September 27, 2016
Today marks the eighty-eighth anniversary of the day you were born. It became a tradition of sorts that I should write or do something special on your birthday.
In 2008, when you turned 80, we threw you a big surprise party in August, we danced through the summer, and I sang happy birthday to you every day for eight weeks because I couldn’t be with you on your actual birthday. In 2010, I posted these beautiful pictures of you in a pink sweater down at the dock. I have dozens of photographs of you, but these are among my favourites.
In 2011, I wrote a piece in which I thanked you for being such an amazing woman and role model for me. In 2012, I recalled the challenges we’d faced and the good times we had throughout the previous year; i posted lots of great pics as proof. In 2014, I wrote you two letters, one about swimming, the other a chorus line of videos of your dance-capades over the years–it’s a cracker. Last year, 2015, we joked about being funny on your bunny, and your friend Shirley gave you a card with a kitten on it.
I miss you Mom, but because I have all of these pictures and videos, prose and poetry, I feel like you are here with me, and in a sense you are. This morning there were two cardinals on my back deck at dawn. You were always excited when you saw a cardinal, and so I was reminded of you. I write to the tick-tocks of your antique clocks every day, and I remember you counting their chimes when you came to visit. I still hear the sound of your voice saying “five.” Your big wooden salad bowl hangs on a hook in the kitchen; your beat-up colander is suspended above the sink; I just put your winter quilt on my bed, and each morning I eat breakfast at the half-moon table, just as we did hundreds of times together. It means a lot to have your things around me. But they are things, they are not you.
Sometimes, randomly and suddenly, I will feel an empty space in the middle of my chest. It’s a physical feeling, a breathtaking emptiness like nothing I’ve experienced before. I wonder how that can be because there’s still bone and tissue there, and yet it feels like there’s not. I am whole, and yet I am not. When that void opens up in my chest, I start to cry. I weep at the thought of your absence. Paradoxically, our deep connection flows through the hollow and into my core. Like everything, the feeling passes; my tears subside and I go on living, passionately and fully. Now that you are gone to another place, you wouldn’t want me to drown in grief and despair. “Life is for the living,” you would say.
Today, on what would have been your eighty-eighth birthday, I celebrate you and your fierce courage and determination. I imagine you smiling and dancing and singing unencumbered by a broken body and failing mind. I hope you are not resting in peace or sleeping deceased, but getting up and going the way when you did when you were here in flesh and blood as well as in spirit.
Happy birthday Mom. Live it up!
Love and hugs,