So on Friday my mother died, and of course I have feelings about that but they are still private, tender things that I prefer to hold close. I am sad, I am busy, I am overwhelmed, I wish people still brought casseroles, and I am destroyed by finding an article about a favorite writer of ours in her drawer with a Post-it that says “Annie.” Of course I am terribly worried about my father, and taking seriously my mother’s last lucid sentence to me which was “take care of your father.” Well, actually, her last words were “I’m a grown woman and I can use the bathroom by myself,” but you know, the other sentiment seems like a better thing to remember.
There are all kinds of things about faith, and literature that fill my head incessantly – “Stop All the Clocks,” “Death Be Not Proud,” “After Great Pain, a Formal Feeling Comes,” and ideas about heaven, reincarnation, and the spirit world. As a Jew she did not believe in heaven, and as a person I don’t believe in heaven, so I’m pretty sure she isn’t sitting on a cloud in a white dress playing a harp. Because that would absolutely bore her to tears and infuriate her beyond all endurance.
Right now I think she’s around, because that poor, battered body wasn’t really her, and the canister of ashes we will eventually be offered in the hideous gold and green hush of the funeral home isn’t really her, either. The real part of her, the part that we loved, is in my hot, wet eyes and in my leaden heart and in the things I now do that she would do – like making my dad take naps and eat food. I think she sees me, and I feel her, and it’s not as good, not nearly as good as when she called me every morning, but it will have to do for now. There isn’t much of a choice.
I also know she’s here because this morning I thought to myself that I really needed lip balm because I had two sticks and I had accidentally washed one with the laundry and lost the other one. I was rifling through her 27 purses trying to find her Social Security number for the funeral home, and there, in the last one, was a brand new Crème de La Mer lip balm. Because I needed it.
Later, I opened the plastic bag of “personal effects” from the hospital and found a pair of Uggs slippers. She and I had matching pairs, bought during a wonderful day of shopping at a shoe outlet somewhere in the Florida Panhandle. My pair was lost almost immediately, and I left Florida after that trip knowing that I would never see them again.
For no particular reason other than wanting my feet to be where her feet had been, and the fact that I was wearing flip flops in October, I slid them on. They fit. They fit because they were mine, a size 9, far too large for her tiny size 6.5 feet. Apparently she had been wearing them for years, since that last trip south. Maybe she alternated between her own small slippers and my larger pair. All I know is that my feet were cold and she gave me my slippers back.
I’ll write more, some time. I might feel like it tomorrow, or I might spend tomorrow sitting on the floor of her closet and wailing. It’s hard to say, because I’ve never done this before. Right now, I’m pretty sure she’s here, looking out for my cold feet and my dry lips, in and around me as we start this new part of our relationship.