This week Marie, from Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer attempted to stoke us bloggers who had fallen into a blogging funk. Her “Mojo Monday” writing prompt: “If you could have an hour on a bench with someone from the past, who would it be?” I will admit, I saw the prompt and thought, “Oh come on now, give me more than that!” But then, here and there, my thoughts began to roam. “If I was to write about this,” I mused, “What would I say?”
Of course without a doubt, the person I would pick would be my mom. But my read of the question went beyond the who it would be, to wondering, “How would I spend that hour?”
My mom died when I was 30; she had just turned 60. The events of her death punctuated immediately for me what my life would be like from then on; an empty space in a pew in the front of the church. Always, forever, an empty space where she was supposed to be. For 22 years now.
You hear people kvetch about their moms; moms interfering in their adult lives, moms telling them how to parent. So you need to understand that my come-from is absent this peripheral view. I did not have many years to grow into an adult-adult relationship with her. No, my vision tunnels into a wonderful childhood and memories of this unbelievably supportive, nurturing mom. She was so loving and fun–naturally emitting the things that feel and taste like love to a kid; undivided attention, magical Christmas seasons full of traditions, the smell of food cooking after school, waiting at the bus with me on really cold days, baking, crafting and giving hugs for no particular reason.
Things I realize, now as an adult, are my infrastructure; the stuff my bones are made of.
So, I can’t imagine that if she had lived she would have ever been bossy about my kids or negative about my life choices. I imagine that she would have been simpatico on my parenting and quite supportive in fact, but I really don’t know.
My mom got diagnosed with cancer three weeks before I was to be married. We cancelled the wedding without a second thought, as she was to have surgery that would keep her in the hospital for several weeks. And besides, who wants to get married without their mom there? The wedding was pushed out six weeks, after being assured by the docs the new date would be a safe bet post-op. Yet, she died suddenly 3 days before the new wedding date and I found myself instead on that day, standing in a cemetery in Western Maryland, burying my mother.
So from the get go, the big hard stuff of adulthood has been done without her-with her inside me and watching over me, but not physically here. My wedding, childbirth, postpartum exhaustion, colicky babies, unanticipated divorce, cancer and chemo, job loss and even now with the sharp painful loss that takes you down after putting your best out there as a person and parent and lose.
I am certain that all the good stuff has happened under her watch as well-wonderful trips with my kiddos, special Christmases where we repeated her traditions, and the successes my kids have experienced. Oh yes, I am quite certain she has giggled along with us in those magic moments that we three have shared and that further, she had a hand in them-too many inexplicable good coincidences have happened in our lives to believe anything other. I know she has cried and cheered and prayed and felt proud with me and has delighted in my kids every step of the way. I know this because I knew her heart and what made it delight…as she knew mine.
So, on this bench, given an hour with her, I wouldn’t feel the need to catch her up because I truly believe she is caught up.
Perhaps it is because of where our relationship was when she died, but I think in that very parent-child, selfishly lopsided way, I would only need something from her; to simply be held and hugged. For just one hour, to absorb like a little dried out and forgotten sponge, 22 years worth of unspoken, absolute and without-a-doubt assurance that I am lovable and am loved. Loved unconditionally despite my foibles and faults.
What I have craved since she has been gone is the very sure feeling that I am not alone in this world and that I am believed in. I have ached to feel her steadfast belief in the goodness of my heart’s intent without having to convince her as I have to do with others, because she knew it as real from its infancy. I have weeping sore places that need her salve, her mothering, to calm the questions that have looped endlessly in my head for 22 years now- Am I a good mom? Am I a good person? Why is life so hard? Why did all these things happen?- -the weighty, adult worries that only a mother’s unconditional love can vaporize when she hugs her 52-year-old daughter, even if just for an hour.
To be for an hour, simply, a child who is loved by her mom.
So maybe Marie, the person from my past I would also want to sit with for an hour is actually me, that child like me who felt so loved and sure and cherished. But of course, it would take two people to make that happen.
Just one person? I am sure Marie, you can give me more than that.
“I love the kind of hugs where you can physically feel the sadness leaving your body”