Most days I am ok with this grief thing. I never quite lose what my mom used to call that “wet” feeling in my gut, but I can manage to push through and even push it aside for periods of time. When I am at work, this is particularly possible, but, right now, thanks to a few Republicans in Congress, I am not allowed to work, so I have been cleaning the house instead. This has turned out to be a veritable minefield of grief triggers.
In the dog room last weekend, I was going through piles of paper that are literally years old. This room had become the place where stuff goes to die, so there was a lot of purging to be done. Chris was helping. I was feeling productive. All was well until I found it: a note from my mother written after she had read an article in the New Yorker. It was a note apologizing for not instilling in me enough confidence to believe that I was capable of leadership. It was filled with awareness and honesty and regret, and I could do nothing but weep reading it over now that she is gone.
Her opening gambit was to say how wonderful it is that I am a valued employee in the eyes of my boss, but shouldn’t I maybe BE the boss??? I remember when she sent it, I thought, “who does this? Who reads a piece in the New Yorker and uses it to question their child rearing strategy, 40 years later?” But that was my mother, especially in her later years. She was not afraid to question her assumptions. She was looking to be better, always.
I remember that I called her after I got her apology. I remember we talked at some length about it. I remember I tried to tell her that all was well, that she had done a brilliant job of instilling in me the assumption that I would work, be productive, and contribute, despite a disability that some might consider disqualifying.
I remember we talked. I just wish I could have run from the dog room on Saturday, picked up the phone and talked again. I wish we could have talked about this ridiculous shutdown, about how much I am throwing out of this house, about how much I love her, how my molecules vibrate with affection for her. I wish I could have called and told her that this life without her is like a tomato sandwich without salt. Everything looks normal, but there is no flavor at all.