Yesterday, I was at work and it was super slow. I asked to go home, like I usually do when there's nothing going on, but my manager said to stay. I told him I felt like I was wasting money because I was just sitting there. He said I should stay anyway. So I had several hours, relatively uninterrupted by customers, to read. So I started Terry Tempest Williams' Refuge.
I should have known better than to read a book about the process of losing a mother on my own mother's 70th birthday. It prompted the release of the feelings I've stuffed very deeply down. The reality that my mother will, at some point, cease to be a middle-aged mom who happens to have been born in 1941. At some point she'll actually get old. And she'll probably be gone by the time I'm 40. And that just sucks. Because there is so much that will be missed.
So I was reading this book at work, and to make matters worse, I've been fairly emotionally fragile this week. I came across the line part where Williams' grandmother talks about losing her own mother.
"I'll never forget that telegram my sister Marion sent. I could't believe it. It was so final. Suddenly, the world seemed very dark. I couldn't imagine how I was going to live without her, and I grieved deeply that she was never able to see her first grandchild. But I will tell you this, Terry, you do get along. It isn't easy. The void is always with you. But you will get by without your mother just fine and I promise you, you will become stronger and stronger each day."
And, at that point, I burst into tears. So I locked myself in the bathroom for 10 minutes until I could get control of myself. I put the book aside until I got off work. I went home and finished it. I know I've found a good book when I read the whole thing in one day. That being said, it was one of the most painful books I've ever read. Not because it was beautifully written, or because of the intricacies of the characters or even because of the actual plot.
It was so hard to read because it was a confirmation of what I had, deep down, been fearing: that losing your mother is horribly painful and the absence is always felt no matter how old you are and how many times it happens. I'd avoided that feeling until this book, that passage in particular. I hadn't assumed I wouldn't feel anything, but I'd never allowed myself to believe it could hurt as much the second time. Because if I was older and we'd had a relationship and she'd lived her life, it wouldn't hurt so deeply. I'm all of a sudden haunted by a deep and helpless fear, knowing that it's going to hurt and it will happen too soon and there's nothing I can do. There is so much life in my future that I don't want my mother to miss. And, I will never be able to escape that feeling she would have loved this so much.
But for now, my mother lives, a thriving seventy-year old. I'll work on enjoying that relationship, because I love my mother very much.
I love that she's a little bit ditzy, and we never know if it's a senile moment or she would've done it at age 20. [She dropped Lorin's first paper for the MBA program at Harvard in the USA federal mail mailbox instead of the official Harvard turn-in-your-paper mailbox. That was 1966]
I love that she and I have gone on a trip, just the two of us, for the past 7 years, and we've had a great time whether it was Idaho or Paris.
I love that she sincerely cares about relationships more than anything and lives by putting others first.
I love that she is so frail (In September, Sam broke her hand by giving her a high-five) but also so incredibly strong (she's climbed Kili, the base camp of Everest, plus trekking in New Zealand, Peru, Patagonia, Kenya, and the Pyrenees).
I love that there are watercolors she painted 15 or 20 years ago scattered about the house (including one of little-me and the dog at the cabin that hangs in my room), and I love that she still goes to art classes once a week.
I love that she's like me in that we both relish in solace to read, and that we only take trips that include some built in reading time.
I love that I'm her only daughter and she appreciates the femininity and communication and sensitivity I bring back into the family.
I love that she wants to communicate, wants to know all the intricacies of who I am. And I love, probably most of all, that she shows me she loves me better than anyone else in my life.