No one warned me when I was pregnant—that I may be a mother…without my mother.
It’s not anything I began to imagine amidst my growing belly, baby showers, and nesting a nursery.
I was barely into motherhood when I lost you to your lung cancer. All those decades of smoking. You were diagnosed and gone in the length of a summer. Our last summer.
At the time I had my toddler, Luke, and my special needs baby Ryan, neither of which you really got to be a “grammy” to. You weren’t really a grandmother to Luke and Ryan, but rather, “my mom” whom I had to care for. Even Luke displayed this truth as he vied for my attention whenever you were around. He knew. He knew it wasn’t the same ooey-gooey experience as with his devoted Grandma Sally, the quintessential grandmother. Sally was always ready and ABLE to play, able to dote on him, and able to feed Luke cute-shaped snacks.
I never thought this would happen. Even though I was 24 when you had your first stroke.
Even though I had been through 6 years of emergency room visits, surgeries, recoveries, doctor appointments, medication management, and all the ups and downs of parenting YOU by the time Luke was born. An opportunity to parent before I was a parent.
Still, I thought you’d be around. That you’d be able to sit and snuggle and read to my children.
I thought you would know them.
I thought they would know you, your sweetness, your gentle goodness, your love of books and movies and cooking.
I thought you would know me as a mother.
I thought you would be there for my every question:
-You became a mom at 17—how did you handle it?
-What did you love the most about being a mom? What did you dislike?
-What do I do about my kid who never wants to go to bed? Like ever?!
-Am I strong enough to handle Ryan’s disability? Can I really do this journey, Mom?
-What was I like as a kid, teenager, or college student?
I thought you would be there for every celebration:
-Mom, I have a little girl named Kate!
-Mom, guess what, Ryan is 3 and he finally walked!
-Mom, Luke got his driver’s license! Can you believe he’s in high school?!
-Mom, I got published!
But you aren’t there.
I can no longer dial 310-430-7183 and hear you answer.
One day in the very back of my closet I stumbled upon your quilt.
THE ONE that was covering you the Sunday morning you passed away. You were in that hospital bed, in what is now Kate’s room. The quilt came during your quilt-obsession days. I think this one was store bought, not made by your own hands. But still. This quilt touched you and warmed your cancer-ridden body all summer long. I guess I ended up with it by default, since you were in my home when you died.
The quilt. Bright white, green, and pink squares stitched together. Triangle edges. I approached it as if I was on holy ground. I picked it up with sacredness, slowly lifting it to my nose.
Eyes closed, I breathed in deeply.
Because I soooo desperately wanted to smell you. Inhale you. Remember you. Feel you. Touch your frail, bony hand touching the quilt, touching mine.
I instantly envisioned coming for visits to my closet.
I could walk in, shut the door, wrap the quilt around me, and then, magically, you would appear.
And we could chat. Chat forever, sitting across from one another, holding hands.
I could look into your watery blue eyes and I’d ask you every single question I’d been wanting to ask. Questions about your life and childhood and marriages. Questions about mothering. I’d tell you everything I’ve been longing to share with you. Everything that’s been stored up inside for too long…
Snap out of it Jessica!
That sounds like a silly movie!
Get over it.
Let it go.
Let her go.
And yet, Mom, as anyone who has lost a parent knows, after some time passes, two years, 10 years, OR 12 years & 8 months—you never “get over it.”
BECAUSE I WASN’T READY TO LOSE A PARENT. You are never ready. I wasn’t supposed to lose you!
Over time, the pain diminishes.
I think about it less.
I think of you less, maybe not every single day. Or week.
The grief is not as palpable as walking through molasses as it was in the first year of all the “FIRSTS.”
But the want is always there. I still want you…here. IN MY LIFE.
I long to be with you, to be known by you, to have your strength and support, to feel your embrace, your love, and to have your love showered upon my children and my home.
If only you could attend school performances, and be there for birthdays and holidays, and crazy-making days, all the days.
If only you could help me taxi around my children, or go to all day volleyball tournaments, and we could eat your beloved jelly beans on the sidelines together.
If only you could spend the night before Thanksgiving, your most favorite holiday, and help me conquer the turkey and gravy. If only…
If only I could just pick up the phone, and hear your raspy, sweet voice, once more.
The WANT…it is always there, Mom.
Love you forever,