it doesn’t seem possible, does it mother, that in just a few short days it will be 30 years since you left this world? how to account for the intervening years, then, the years that i wish i could have shared with you; the failures, the small triumphs, the love, and the sadness, the gossip, the weather, bill clinton, george w. bush, and a trip to france? in just a few paragraphs today there is no way we could cover all of that ground is there (water under a bridge, but actually more like virginia woolf wading into the rill that last time, her sweater pockets filled with rocks)? how then, to explain my life to you; all those little things in my life that went undocumented because i could not call you on the phone and tell you, “i got the job!” or “i think you’ll like him, mom, he means the world to me.” the time pneumonia put me in the hospital, so sick there was concern that i might not make it through, the white cyclamen my boss sent to me sitting on the window sill of my room (all remembered with the hazy soft filter of time and morphine.)
and even more so than the peaks and valleys are the tiny little moments that you experience on a daily basis when the road is level, like when i was a teenager and you asked me what happened during my day and i would respond, “nothing.” those are the nothings that you do share eventually, unprompted, it spills out of you as we recount the week behind us, you on the stool in the kitchen under the wall phone, me, well me, wherever i was living at the time. how could we catch up on all that love? what of it, hmm?
a few days ago, m. introduced me to the “long island medium”, a “reality” show (how to explain reality tv to you, you who left before its onslaught, lucky you) about a woman living on long island in new york who communicates with the dead. i wouldn’t have thought to bring it up were it not so close to this time marker, this anniversary of three decades without you, although it’s probably silly not to, all things considered, since your mother was as psychic as they come, but it appears that this woman really does talk to the dead. (if it’s not true, my hat’s off to the producers of this ‘unscripted’ show for pulling off such amazing acting turns from ordinary people.)
m. and i spent a lazy sunday afternoon and early evening watching, actually more like completely absorbed by, this phenomenon, this woman reaching out to strangers to tell them (she can’t seem to hold herself back from intruding on other people’s lives) that their loved ones are watching them, are with them when the grandchild was born, the birthday was celebrated, the high school graduation, the wedding, the death of another close relative, the dog that died.
the medium insists that she only shares happiness, and the people whose lives she touches seem to be at a point in their grieving where this interruption, this communication from their ghosts is most needed. she paints a picture of “the other side” as one of all roses and harps and eternal bliss where those who’ve left us frolic together, each and everyone coming together to watch over you, the living.
there are so many joyous tears and looks of incredulity at the minutiae she apparently knows about your intimate life that you can’t help but believe that she has touched on some element (the 5th? or was that just some silly movie with bruce willis and brad pitt?) that i have to ask you, mom, have you been here all along?
as lovely as that seems and as much as i would like to believe that you are here, now (and it’s true i may unconsciously believe that you are) it does not put you physically in front of me as much as i might yearn for that. if the long island medium were to communicate for you to me, yes, it may offer temporary succor, but the fact remains that i cannot call you up when i want to, to check in with you, how you’re feeling, that you had your hair cut and styled, bought a new dress, went out to dinner with your friends, volunteered at the local VFW for a food drive, drove up to jeff city for a doctor’s appointment by yourself, that the dogwood are blooming, a neighbor has a new dog that spends more time with you than with them.
all of that is gone. i accept that. and today, on mother’s day 2012, just a few days from when we laid you in the ground 30 years ago, it may be enough for me to know that you’re close by, watching and smiling, still in love with your son.