Three of a Kind: ok, I wrote this months ago… then, accidentally deleted it. Nancy has been patient — but it’s been hanging over my head, with a few other “to do’s.” Yet as I approach the second anniversary of my mother’s death, I reflect again, on the best/better days we had together. However, the notion of a favorite day is muddled, as it’s the “moments” that seem more poignant. To me, anyways.
It was a Sunday night in the fall – usually, the blended family ate together, but this time my stepdad and his son decided to rid themselves of estrogen under the guise of “guy talk.” Which left us with girl talk — and so, my mom, daughter Gabby, and I dined “in.” We camped out on the couch in the den, with CBS 60 Minutes as background noise, eating heaps of spaghetti off dinner trays…it was Gabby’s first time using a dinner tray, and she thought this was “really living.” At 8 or so, she didn’t use those words exactly, but if she could have, she would have. Several rounds of spaghetti were followed with even more rounds of card games: war and gin rummy. All centered around a coffee table that we’ve had my entire life.
It took the disappearance of all other familial distractions, to appreciate how much my mom was enjoying my daughter that evening. It felt good to be a priority for that short time, and to feel the contentment among us three. Cuz for all I’ve done to both disappoint and please my mother in life — for all the unflinching support she gave me towards adopting my daughter, following the abandonment of her conventional 2 parent, white-picket-fence-life dream for me — all felt OK in the world. And that’s why I remember it so fondly.
As my flight descends into LA, my previous home, I know I’ll wake up tomorrow wanting to call my mom, as I often did, to tell her how great the weather is, that I’m wearing shorts in February, and playing tennis outside today. And of course, I’d want to tell her about Gabby. But since tomorrow is the day she died two years ago, Plan B. I will walk the beach, buy Gabby the Aviator knock-offs she so admired on my mom (who had the real ones), and enjoy the blue skies and green grass. Before returning to that coffee table now residing in my home, and the reality of how the cards were dealt…
This blog topic has been a tough one. My mother and I didn’t “plan” days together. When I was young, we were together a lot (too much), but now that I think about it, I am surprised we didn’t have special outings. What day did we spend together that was ours? In fairness, I’m sure the trouble lies with my memory because I do remember quite clearly— my mother did love spending time with me.
Well, I did think of one that was “ours,” but I’m sure she hated every minute of it. It was not planned. It was not quite a whole day. But it was just us two. My dad was at work. And my brother was playing at a friend’s house. I was around 8 and loved to read my library books while taking a bath. Especially when it was cold out. Even at 8, I was already always cold. My mother was downstairs getting the house ready for company that night. Which never happened. Because as I was stepping out of the tub, I realized I hadn’t flung my book far enough away and in an effort not to drip any water on it, I slipped and hit my head on the radiator. It hurt, but not in a way that caused me to think anything was wrong. But, I was wrong, I soon discovered. My mother heard me fall and came up to see if I was okay. I told her I was. I hadn’t looked in the mirror. It didn’t seem necessary. I really was clueless there was blood and whatever else…
My mother hated blood. Couldn’t stand the sight of it. Hated to be scared. Hated scary movies. Having seen Psycho (my father was never forgiven for that…) she always locked the bathroom door every time she took a shower. Open wounds and their remedy were definitely my dad’s domain. But this is what was so unlike my mother—she opened the door to find that gash across my eyebrow and was totally calm. She simply told me I wasn’t fine as she reached for a towel to cover up the mess so I wouldn’t see it. Because of course, once I heard I wasn’t fine, I wanted to see what she was talking about. But my mother was firm about it.
We were a one-car family at this time. My dad had parked it at the train station. But she located a friend who let us borrow their car so we could get to the doctor’s office. My mother found a way to remain in character as this clear-headed general and solved each obstacle—getting me dressed, arranging transportation, calling my brother’s friend’s house, explaining the situation to my doctor— and she never lost it. Which I am certain she would’ve done otherwise.
Other details have faded away but her complete focus on my getting medical attention has not.
As for the seven stitches, I know my mother was with me for the whole thing. And I know she would have rather been anywhere else. (Maybe even watching Psycho.) But I never felt that from her—from the moment I got on the table ’til the last stitch. Hers was the perfect hand to hold. I mean, squeeze. (That novocaine was not earning its paycheck.) I was so grateful to have her there; she said all the right things— all obvious, but exactly what I needed to hear. She was sympathetic and positive and I’m certain she deserved an Oscar for it.
What I also loved was that she never gave me a hard time for reading in the tub or prevented me from doing it again. There never came a time when I was made to feel I had done something wrong. It was always just an accident. Even the dinner plans that had to be canceled were out of my earshot. I felt only concern. And love.
…I never meant for our seven stitches in time to slip so far from memory. I only wish I had the chance to share it with her. But sadly, my mother is no longer a phone call away. It’s a lousy ending to this story, though I’m glad to recall it, just the same. I need more memories of us that aren’t yet another pointless stand-off or collection of meaningless chatter. Because all too often, that was the nature of our time together.