My mother passed away five years ago on Thursday. Five years. That’s a long time. There is so much she has missed seeing in person. The birth of my daughter. Grace’s crazy antics, her killer dance moves, her bizarre songs and performances, her hugs, and I love yous. She missed me telling her I was pregnant with Grace and with baby number two. Sometimes I day-dream about what that moment would have been like. I play out different scenarios. Creative ways we could have told her. But most of all, I play out her reaction. In my dream, we are sitting at the breakfast bar in her kitchen, just like we were when we told her we wanted to get married. We’d tell her and she’d laugh. She’d hug me first, a big smile on her face, tears in her eyes, and then she’d hug Ken hard, and say “Congratulations, daddy!”
She has missed sleepovers with my daughter. She’s missed my niece’s soccer games, my best friend’s wedding, the birth of her daughter. She’s missed a gazillion and one phone calls from me as I’ve driven to and from work. She’s missed goofy middle school stories, she’s missed a lot of vents of frustration, she’s missed breakfast in the cafeteria of St. Luke’s (where we used to work), she’s missed a call from me when all of my fire alarms were going off without reason and I couldn’t for the life of me find the ladder or make it stop. She’s missed movie nights, and coffee on her porch. She’s missed every birthday and every BBQ. Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving. Games of Progressive Rummy. A trip to the Oregon Coast (she never went, but she always talked about going). Grace’s first breath. Concerts and award ceremonies. The Dairy Days Parade with Grace and Fenix, shopping trips, buying baby clothes for her grandkids just because.
I could go on and on. I could fill this page up with a million things, big and small, that she has missed seeing in person. My hope is that she still gets to see them first hand, even if we don’t get to see her. That when Grace is talking to her Grandma on her cell phone and Grandma says, “Love you, babe!” to her (Grace always narrates both sides of her cell phone conversations) that she really does hear my mom saying those words, because it sure does sound like her, and that when she tells me Grandma kissed her owie, that she really did.
I spent Thursday at home, being kind of lazy. I napped with Grace. I cuddled with her and watched T.V. I built a shelf to go in her and her baby brother’s closet. I made pork chops and mashed potatoes for dinner. At the end of the night we told the kids we’d take them to the park once it was cool and we’d swing by Sonic and get milk shakes. We planned to make a stop at the cemetery on our way, but it got dark quick, and we only ended up making the park. I should feel bad that we didn’t go on the exact anniversary of her death, but instead we waited until a few days later. But I don’t know that I do. July 24th is just an awkward day. Do you celebrate the life of your loved one on those anniversaries? Do you mourn? Or do they just become normal days? I celebrate her birthday every year. Once I met my sister and her family for dinner. The last few years I’ve invited them over for dinner and cake at our place. Cherry Chip cake for that matter:) However, I’ve never been quite sure what to do with myself on the anniversary of her passing. I could have gone to the cemetery, and perhaps I should have. However, honestly? I don’t feel her there.
I feel her in my daughter’s room, right where she said she’d be in that week before she passed. I feel her when I bake and I pull out my grandma’s jars that contain various baking ingredients, the same ones that sat on my mom’s counter once my grandmother passed. In fact, I feel them both then. I feel her when I hold Grace, when I page through an old photo album, when I make deviled eggs at Thanksgiving like she used to do. I feel her when I drink a cup of coffee on my porch. I feel her in many places and in many ways. I just don’t feel her in the cemetery, and maybe it’s meant to be that way? Maybe that’s alright.
Five years is a long time, yet I still miss her just as much as I did on day one, maybe more. I still have moments where I break. I still long to call her, to hug her, to hear her laugh. These are just things I’ve learned to live with, and I know it will be the same ten years from now, twenty. I know I will be old and gray some day, and I will still miss my mother, and that’s O.K.