Point of trip: to divvy up the final remnants of my mother’s life.
Mom died in 2014 of dementia. It was a whirlwind horror. She’d hidden her disabilities behind sunny smiles and jokes and twinkly blue eyes. She had everyone fooled. It wasn’t hard for her to hide her condition since my brother and I didn’t live close by. When we found out, she was in the last stages of her disease. 2014 is best remembered for denial, then shock, and finally acceptance and a three-day road trip moving Mom to an assisted living facility in Arizona. In no time at all, she was gone. We arranged for the funeral in a state of disbelief.
So I’d put off this trip. Maybe I’m still in denial. I miss the daily phone calls and talking to the one person that was interested in every detail of my life. When the ficus tree I inherited from her and planted in my backyard died last year, I stubbornly refused to dig it up. “Give it a chance to come back,” I insisted.
But, like Mom, it didn’t.
Little pieces of her are slowly fading.
My sister-in-law had insisted my brother keep all the little knick-knacks and crystal, the random vases or bowls; the stacks of letters she and Dad exchanged when he’d been assigned overseas during his military career. She wanted to make sure I had a chance to go through it, and I’m grateful.
Initially, when I cleaned out Mom’s house after we moved her, I had the unquenchable urge to toss everything that was left, as if in my anger at her abrupt departure I didn’t want to think about her absence; be reminded of the lack of her. In fact, I gave so much stuff to Goodwill that we had to buy her a new outfit to be buried in.
I am sad about that now.
To my relief, going through the remaining earthly trappings of her life proved easier this time. Less emotional. My brother and I shared memories reached from different perspectives; had conversations that told us a lot about each other. As I watched him, I noticed the familiar shape of my long-deceased father’s hands, the chestnut-brown eyes so like Dad’s. My mother’s teasing words coming out of his mouth. All so familiar.
Family. It must not be taken for granted.
We offered the remaining furniture to the grandkids, split the abundant wealth of photos and letters and whatever else we hoped to hold in our hands or hang on our walls in an effort to preserve history.
Among other things, I got my maternal grandmother’s diaries, a family Bible collection, and the jewelry I’d played dress-up with as a child. My grandmother’s diaries date from 1946. I cannot wait to dig into them. My mother saved pieces of her parents, just like my brother and I are saving pieces of her, lest we forget.
It is a sad fact, the fading of a parent’s life; but the love, the belonging, the certainty that I was wanted and planned for and undergirded with everything they could humanly give—these thoughts burn bright.
Anyway, I’m glad the divvying up is done, and all the little bits I selected will remind me of her.
And I will smile.