Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mom Knows Best


OK it's official. I'm losing it. Since mom died 3 weeks ago, I've completely forgotten everything she ever taught me. No really. It's all gone.

Or so it seems today. Actually it started a couple of days ago. My five-year old boy asked me wistfully (as he has been doing for years now) "Can I see your ring momma?" with that shy little smile so endearing to me.

Now up until this point my answer has always been, "Sure you can look at it, see?" as I offer my hand to him, knowing full-well that's not what he meant.

"No momma, can you take it off so I can see it?" he asks (forgetting I've said no 100 times before)....

But this time it was different. I remember being a little girl asking my mother the exact same thing, and her response always being the same - "you can look at it but I'm not taking it off for you...because it's special." or, "because my finger swelled and I can't take it off anymore"...etc.

This time I said what the heck, we're sitting together on the couch and I'll watch him like a hawk. Why not break with tradition, I mean it always hurt my feelings (a little) when mom wouldn't let me hold her ring. So I watched in amusement as his eyes lit up as I handed the ring to him, and he oh so carefully took it with his stubby little boy fingers and held it so gently in the palm of his hand, like a baby bird, turning it this way then that, marveling at how "it's SO SPARK-ely momma!"

I smiled and gave him a minute to take it all in, then quietly took it back from him, and promptly put it back on. Then I looked at my hand and there it was: the innocent little question that has now turned into a full blown panic attack -- which way does it go on?

You see, my wedding "ring" consists of 2 rings - the diamond solitaire "engagement ring", along with the "wedding band" - forever joined together. So there's a right way and a wrong way to wear it - according to mom that is.

She always told me (as her wedding ring was like mine) - "You have to wear the ring so that the (insert "wedding band" or "engagement ring" here) goes on first, so it's closest to your heart."

And that's the way I've worn mine for the past 8 years, just as she did for 49 years. Did I mention mom died on our wedding anniversary, October 27th? Of course my sister told me it was the 28th, in her big sisterly way of trying to soften the blow as she called me at 9 in the morning on October 28th to tell me the bad news: "mom died."
"Oh no, when?" was my response.

"Uh - umm . . . . well - the hospital called me at 3:30 this morning to tell me, but I'm not sure what time they found her - uh - dead."

And I pressed her further - "Well what time did you see her last? How was she? What did the nurse say? When was the last time they checked her?" in a rapid-fire attack barely allowing her to answer (my lawyer-side emerging in it's ugly head).....

"Well WHY DOES IT MATTER?" she asks me testily, knowing full well (or not) why I'm so concerned.

"Well -- I ah, I just - want to know if mom died on my wedding anniversary." I said.

"Oh." came her response....then thinking quickly, as I've known my big sister to do since I was old enough to talk and understand - she started to think of what to say to make me feel better, without stretching the truth TOO much, but enough to ease my pain. To somehow protect me from the awful truth.

Like the time I was 6, and she was 12, and it was late one night after we'd gone to bed, in the bedroom we shared for years - and she quietly sneaked out of our room to hunch at the top of the stairs, eavesdropping on what was a very unexpected late night visit from my grandfather, with mom and dad in the kitchen, in hushed voices....why was grandpa over so late? Why were all the lights on? Why were they all talking so low?

Then we heard my father utter in a firm tone "IT'S DEAD PA - PUT IT DOWN"....and the knots in my little stomach tightened.

Laurie stayed there another minute listening then finally tip-toed downstairs to confirm the news, then came back up sadly but wouldn't tell me right away. I kept bugging her like the little pipsqueak I was, "What is it Laurie? What's goin on? What happened Laurie? Why is grandpa here? Huh?"

And finally in a choked voice she told me, "We don't have a cat anymore" explaining that grandpa had found Smokey dead in the alley between our houses. She came over and sat on the edge of my bed while I cried, keeping strong for me as she always did - never letting me hear her cry. Then brought me over to the window where we silently watched dad bury Smokey in the backyard, in the dark.

Fast forward 41 years and she's back in Big Sister mode - "Well I'm SURE -- ah -- it was the 28th."

Me: "Why."

Laurie: "Because - I don't know! I left her at 6 last night (on the 27th) and she was OK....and they didn't call me until 3:30 this morning....but the nurse said they had to wait for the Coroner to get there and that took a while so I'm not sure when she died. I don't know, I was asleep when they called! I've been up since 3:30 this morning! It's the 28th I'm sure. I'm SURE."

As if stressing it makes it so.

Me "Well - OK" . . . (what can you do).

Her "I'll find out when I get the death certificate, what does it matter now".

And I haven't seen the certificate yet, (and probably never will) but the date she put on mom's obituary is the 28th. I guess it doesn't matter that much. She's gone either way.

Fast forward to today. Ever since I took my wedding ring off to show Cole, I'm not sure how to wear it. When I first put it back on I looked down at my hand and said "WAIT! That's not RIGHT - IS IT?" As if a 5-year old would know such a thing.

"Grandma always said you have to wear it with a certain side closest to your heart" I explained. As if that would help him figure it out for me.

First I wear it with the diamond ring going on first. Then it suddenly looks awful to me and I hastily switch it so that the band is closest to my heart - "the wedding band should go closest to your heart" Mom said. Or was it the other way around? And now I can't ask her anymore, because she's dead. And no one else will know this -- if I ask a bunch of people I'm sure to get varying responses. OH NO WHAT WILL I DO?

And no matter which way I've been wearing it, I'm still not sure for 2 days now ..... What did mom tell me? What did her voice sound like? Her laugh? Her favorite pet names for me? What if this is just the beginning? What if I forget EVERYTHING ABOUT HER!??!

And so the mourning process goes....some mornings better than others. So off I go to pour myself another cup of coffee, hoping this one will somehow jog the memory loose...before I start Googling the answer that I'm sure to doubt. Because only MY MOM knows best. And now she's - gone.
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