For those of you who do not know, I lost my mother recently. I have experienced a flood gate of new feelings that I am still working through. Some have been positive, like the newly found “freedom” of not answering to Mom, and some have been unbelievably sad, like how much I miss her incredibly boisterous spirit that was wrapped in her aging body. The one feeling that I did not expect was the awkwardness that ensued. (Queue Tiny Tim singing “Tiptoe through the tulips.”) I am really sorry to do that to you, and I apologize for the fact that it will radiate in your brain for days, but I was stuck with it, as it played in my head throughout the event. I figured I would share. Don’t hate me please.
Anyway, it has been a very emotional time for me and my family, but that has not stopped the crazy that seems to be a part of my life. In spite of the crying, it is impossible to not find some humor in the day to day, and I think Mom would be proud. On the Saturday after her passing, we had a small service for my mom at my sister’s home. This by itself was a bit challenging for me, because as I have written, there has been little family contact since my first divorce. My sister and I do not relate well to each other. I work, she shops. I divorce, she has affairs. I cared for my mom, she ran.
We reunited for this brief time to get along during the hospitalization of my mom. I called her and let her know that this was, in all likelihood, going to be her last chance to see mom. I was right. She lasted fewer than 14 days.
As her peace offering, she had a service in her home for friends and family. She paid for everything. It was greatly appreciated, as I was not in the emotional, or financial place to pull it all together. It was beautifully done, and I hope I always remember the few moments of sisterly togetherness, as we rested our heads together as we all spoke about mom. My first husband insisted on coming. He arrived promptly, and told me he would only stay briefly, which was also appreciated.
As my nephews greeted him as their “Uncle”, the night of awkward began. His “brief” visit lasted almost 4 hours.
He chatted with people that we used to socialize with, and he ate, and drank, and ate some more. He seemed happy to be there. He exchanged phone numbers with my brother in law, and others. My oldest son whispered in my ear, with a hint of sarcasm, “… this isn’t awkward in the least, is it??” When I could take it no more, I wandered (she has a BIG house) to the living room, or drawing room, or den or whatever you would call it. I could no longer hold back the tears, and to this day, several weeks later, I don’t know if I was crying for the loss of my mother or the loss of my marriage, or the loss of my family. The loss was pervasive; it filled the room. I know he felt it too.
Before I knew it, he was there. We spent the next half hour looking at their showcased art and photos and gifts, sometimes laughing at our own memories of the photos, and even of the gifts we had given them seemingly so many centuries ago. I was crying, and he asked me if I was OK. It was good to have the death of my mom to be the reason I was crying. It has become a catch all basket for the tears that I have suppressed for so many years. I can cry now, and say, “Oh, I was just thinking of grandma.” Sometimes it is true, other times, not so much.
He stayed until the awkward was palpable, and he left. My sister joined me and in her ever so kind manner said, “I hope you aren’t crying over him.” I told her I was crying over loss. I never said any more, but I assume that she took it to mean that I missed Mom. I did, and still do, but there is more. I miss family. I miss the idea of family. I miss the idea of being a couple.
Where does family begin and end? Are the ties ever really cut when you divorce? Sometimes it feels like the family that we made will forever unite us as our genes run through the children we share. But it is more than biology. It is the sharing of experience and memories that gives me reason to act kinder than I should. Yes, we divorced, but we did not erase all that came into existence during those twenty years that we shared.
The death of my mother served as a giant white flag. It was an invitation to rethink the idea of family and the connections we share. Where does family begin? Where does it end? When does it end or begin? At this moment, it all seems rather arbitrary. Neither death, nor divorce can act as a giant eraser. The ties of memory remain to guide us in the future.