She would be 73 today. I find it hard to even imagine what she would be like at 73. That sounds so OLD. And in my mind she's so young.
It's been just a bit shy of 17 years since I've seen her. But more like almost 19 years since I've seen HER. She was so sick those last couple years. A shell of herself, a body and mind that was being slowly destroyed by a 23 year battle with a brain tumor. She fought that nasty thing so hard. She did not die from a brain tumor, a brain tumor had to kill her. A subtle difference, but her stubborn determination to live and not give up made it a fight that she did not back down from.
My last fully coherent conversation with her was on October 6th, 1994. By this point she was having very few days where she was alert and would even talk. And that morning, I found out I was pregnant with my first baby. It had been a long road to get pregnant, and I wanted so badly to share the news with her. We left the doctor's office and headed straight to her home, where she had at this point been in a hospital bed in the living room for two months. She had been completely blind for a long time, an effect of that nasty tumor. I gently shook her awake, praying that she would wake coherent and be having a "good" day. "Mom???" She stirred and said, "Oh, hi honey!" I was so glad that she knew I was there, and hoping she would receive my news with understanding. I told her the news. Her first questions? "Are you sure?? How do you know for sure???" I assured her it was true, we had just come from the doctor. And she got it. Fully. She shared my joy in that moment, just a somewhat skewed normal moment between a mother and daughter.
Later that evening, I arrived home to find a message from her on my answering machine. Now, it had been so very long since I had the simple pleasure of talking to her on the phone, even hearing her voice for any extended conversation. But this message was as clear as if the tumor was not a part of her. "Hi honey, this is Mom. I just wanted to see how you are feeling and see if it's okay if I tell people your news or if you want to tell them yourself. Call me back. Bye." I sat on my bed and cried. I kept the tape from the answering machine for a looooong time. Her voice, sounding so proud and joyful, was captured. I called her back, talked to her ever-so-briefly, and told her I had never felt better and that she could tell anyone (or everyone) she wanted. She wanted to hang up quickly after I told her that, she had people to call!
After that evening, she never mentioned it again. In the five months and one week she lived beyond that conversation, we never had one more about my baby or pregnancy. In fact, we had very few words exchanged as she slipped further away from us.
But that evening, was such a gift to me. I treasure it. For a brief moment in time, my mom was able to share my joy of my child. Her grandchild. I didn't even know yet that was Alex.
I miss her. I wish she could still be sharing the joy of my children. I wish she could sit in the audience and listen to Alex play. I wish she could sit in the stadiums and watch Brenna and Beth cheer. I wish she could sit at the dinner table with us and enjoy simple conversations. I wish she could spend time with Brenna and realize how very similar they are. I wish she could have been sitting front and center when each of my kids was baptized. So many wishes...
And I wonder what she would be like? She'd probably still love her tea every night. She'd probably still like to warm her back-side by a fire. She'd probably still have the same hairstyle. She'd probably still love to eat ice cream and popcorn balls and chicken legs. She'd be mightily perplexed with many of the computer uses today...Facebook? Makes me grin picturing her trying to navigate that. And Starbucks? She'd much rather have her Lipton tea bag in her mug. She'd surely be retired by now. I like to think she'd be travelling to Hawaii, knitting, reading, laughing, enjoying friends, church and family.
I know she'd love her family. Some things she'd wish were different, but maybe those things would be different if she were still here. She was a center hub in our family that we all were tethered to. Without her in the center, some pieces have not stayed tethered.
I would love to have her here. But I know where she is. And I know someday I'll be with her, and we'll get to share joy again. Together.
So, Happy Birthday, Mom. I hope you have a big carton of Black Walnut ice cream. Ice cream in heaven?? Why not! I miss you and I love you.