“I miss my Mom.”
At least once a day, her bottom lip swells and shivers like a newborn kangaroo peeking its head out of the soft pouch for the first time. Sometimes there are full blown tears, but not always. Usually, it’s when she’s tired or doesn’t want to go to bed. Or both.
“I know,” I usually say and leave it at that. I let her have these feelings and how they need to come out. Sometimes I distract her with a fun memory of our day or a thought of tomorrow. Sometimes I tell her that her Mom must be thinking of her right now, too.
One thing I always do, is relate.
We have Lillian this summer for almost the entire month of August–the longest she’s been away from her mother. Somewhere along the planning stages of this, the reality of this irreplaceable sliver in time hit between the heart chambers like an ultrasound heartbeat, heard for the first time.
We will have Lillian with us for the longest time we’ve ever had her, at the very stretch in my own timeline, that my mother was dying.
“Kathy came in to my room today and said ‘Mommy, you’re dying aren’t you?'” my mother wrote to my Grandmother in the months before she did just that. “What do you think I should have said?” she asked her mother in law.
My mother died twelve days before my sixth birthday. Lillian turns six this September 10.
This is sacred ground I’m treading on right now.
I woke up this morning thinking of my routines; the altar I worship at of my alone time and the fact that I get almost none of that right now. I felt the walls starting to close in, wondering how I would make it these next few weeks.
“You have to change. It is time to evolve,” a small voice inside said. These words from beyond brought me an unfamiliar comfort. Big changes like this don’t usually come along in midlife. Just because I have always used that method–extreme bouts of alone time– to restore myself, does not mean it is the only way things have to be. In fact, it simply is not possible right now anyway. Maybe for a reason, I thought.
My mother spent most of that last summer of her life in a hospital bed dying of cancer. It was back in the day that children were not allowed inside the hospital, so her last visions of her three children–3, 5 and 7–were peering down from a tall building, in a wheelchair, at them–at us–holding hand drawn pictures from the grassy lawn. I was the five year old–Lillian’s age. These are my last memories of my mother.
Oh, how she would have loved nothing more than having her time consumed by us.
Sometimes in life you get to have a do-over for somebody else.
This time is sacred. I feel my mother near. I am not afraid. I am a stay-at-home stepmommy now, and she is steering my ship. I can feel it. I know what to do, how to cook, the right temperament, the patience that is needed. It is all being given to me.
I need to evolve. She is evolving me. Both shes are evolving me.
There is no time to waste. There is no alone time more precious than every second I get with this precious girl–with myself in this unique way. I have never in the fifty two years since her death, felt my mother so near, such a part of me.
And still, Lillian, I get it.
I miss my Mom too.