Monday, March 2, 2015
My Mother's Daughter
When I decided to participate in this challenge, I knew the hardest part for me would be coming up with things to write about. I'm not a storyteller by nature, full of detailed narratives about my life. My friend Meredith always has stories to tell, absolutely crazy tales of things that have happened to her and her family members that are sometimes hard to believe. The most amazing part of her stories is they are all true. Mostly my stories and reflections stay inside my own head where they don't have to be fully realized to be understood, so I spent the day yesterday wondering what I would write for my next post. I had a couple of ideas, and I may use them yet, but when I started writing, I just didn't like anything I put down on paper. It all seemed pointless. So, I did what comes naturally; I procrastinated and called my mother.
Lately, though, conversations with my mom most often leave me feeling sad. Without even meaning to, I find myself listening through her words to the emptiness behind her. I am listening for a sound . . . a presence . . . that I am never going to hear again.
I am listening for my father.
For all my life he was there in the background. Whenever I would call, he would tell my mom things to tell me and she would relay my messages back to him. (I still laugh when I think of the time we got my mother, who doesn't swear, to use a couple of choice four-letter words.) Even when he didn't say anything, I knew he was there. His presence was a given. Here it is almost eight months since he's been gone, and I can still feel that presence. Maybe that's the one benefit of living hours from my parents. I can go about my life as I normally do, still feeling him so strongly that it's almost easy to forget he's gone. Until Mom's on the phone and the emptiness reaches mercilessly through the phone line to remind me.
The thing that gets me the most, though, is the sadness I hear in my mom's voice. She never speaks of it - she'll tell you she's fine whenever you ask - but I hear it just the same. My own grief I can handle. I don't know what to do with hers. How do you console your mother? How do you tell her that everything will be okay, when you know, for her, it will never be okay again? I reach for magic words to soothe and heal, but I come up short every time. I feel useless. I don't know how to be anything but a daughter.
Then again, maybe that is all I have to be.
As I put my younger son to bed last night and sat there rubbing his back in the glow of his nightlight, I thought about how neither he nor his brother had any magic words either. Yet, they soothe and heal me just the same. Just simply by being. Children force our gaze upward and urge us onward even when we think we can't take another step. They give us unquestioning love (most of the time), a reason for being, and hope for the future. While they do not take away the sadness of losing my father, they make it bearable. They fill my days with happiness and life. So, maybe no magic words are needed after all. Maybe all my mom really needs from me is to be the daughter I have always been.