Sunday, February 7, 2010

Love of a Mother

Twins, Mom and me, the baby, in 1960.

Dear Mom,

It's occurred to me lately that you just may not be immortal. Besides depressing the hell out of me, this has made me realize that writing a love letter to you just may be the best topic for me to write about for the Momalom Love It Up challenge.

I sat beside you on your lumpy couch this week and became concerned. Very concerned. First of all, you, who never stop talking, weren't talking. Second of all, your TV, normally blasting out old Westerns from the 50s, was on mute. One sister told me that you tried to change the TV channel with the phone. And even though we handled this little medical crisis with a quick change in medication, it brought to mind your fragile mortality; after all, you'll be eighty in June. So here's the deal: I may be turning fifty in four weeks, but I'm not ready to be an orphan.

Flash back thirty-five years ago, to March 1st, 1975, six days before my fifteen birthday. Dad dies suddenly, leaving you a forty-four-year-old widow. From then on - all the way till now - I am waiting, with paranoid anticipation, for the other shoe to drop, and you're the other shoe. One parent disappears around the horizon with no warning, no goodbyes, his clothes still hanging in the closet, his shoes just standing there, his wallet and keys on the dresser, his car in the driveway. Gone. Who's to say it can't happen to the other parent?

And, of course, it can. So I've guarded you these past thirty-five years. I've been your amateur doctor, calling you daily, living nearby, writing your story, trying my best to live this Jewish life. But I can't stop you from aging, can't stop little pieces of you disappearing one by one, and I can't stop you from eventually disappearing altogether. No matter how meticulous my care and that of my sisters, it will happen and then, when I reach for the phone each day to talk to you, ready to share my successes and my failures, I'll have to pull my hand back from the phone, remembering that you're no longer there.

I've written about you a lot on this blog. I've poked a lot of fun - at your wreck of a cactus-strewn acre in Scottsdale, at the way you pack, the way you drive, the way you talk on the phone. But when you strip it all away, the humor, the writing, the blog, there's only one fact that's left standing: I wouldn't be able to write about being a mom without having known the love of one.

Happy Valentine's Day, Mom.

From your number six daughter, Linda

Do you ever feel your parents' mortality like an oncoming train? Did you ever have a loss that made you wary, like things were suddenly very precarious? How much are you still and always a daughter (or son) and how much a parent? Or do you instantly turn back into a kid when you talk to your parent?

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