But coming in a close second is the hour (or two, or three) before the point just before you leave for the airport. That’s the time that I am experiencing right now. It’s a little after midnight, and I have a few hours left before my brother-in-law drives me to the airport and deposits me into a post-holiday melee, loaded down with an unhappy cat and a bagful of a few of my mom’s possessions, most of which she acquired during the last year.
My sister wrote something beautiful to describe her initial processing of the death of our mother. It was a piece filled with raw honesty, insignificant details that stood out, and all the pathos that you’d expect from a piece of prose describing the death of a parent.
What the hell could I write—can I write? How can I explain how my initial reaction was not heartbreak but rather startlement? There were no ruminations about the coffee my mother would never drink. There was only a few moments of dizziness, a gritting of teeth, a hasty decision to limit who I told the news to for a while. Later, there was my good friend NavaJo swooping in to see how I was doing, my husband picking me up so I wouldn’t have to drive home, three ill-advised martinis at Acqua Piazza (NavaJo joining me again). And then, a few more days of work before I could catch my already-scheduled flight home.
For all her flaws, my mother deserved more than how I was and am able to mourn her. And that will be a shame that I must own and shoulder.
We do the best we can with what we have. We play the hand we’re dealt.
With this in mind, I wrote the Remembrance that my sisters will read at her service tomorrow. It’s the one thing, other than sorting through her paperwork, I felt like I could do. For all I know, it might be the only closure I can get. So I slapped it together tonight while Mary sorted through Mom’s paperwork and found her bucket list and cried and Sarah looked on and kept watch over us. And then Mary went to bed, and I listened to the sound of her broken sobbing, and occasionally glanced over at Mom’s checkbook, which seems like the saddest reminder of what has happened—the only thing sadder was eating the prime rib that she had bought for us for Christmas dinner.
And underneath it all is the greatest shame of all—I love my mother, but I am terrified, fucking out of my mind terrified, of becoming like her.