My mother died 11-weeks ago today. I don’t think about her or her death death everyday. In fact, large gaps of time go by when she/it doesn’t enter my conscious realm. Yet, if asked about her death, and inquiries are rare, I instantly know exactly how long it’s been since she died. It’s like a break up. In a lot of ways it was. We stopped looking at our relationship as a typically troubled mother/daughter Dr. Phil segment. We instead, wisely elected to view it as two women forced by genes, guilt and few viable age-related options, to assist each other as best we could, which was a feat considering we weren’t that fond of each other. That’s a true statement.
The last big showdown with her death is happening this weekend. When mother died, so did her generation of our family tree. Eight predeceased her, including my aunt, Carolyn who died in infancy….at six months…..in 1929 from an ear infection that today, wouldn’t have necessarily required a doctor’s visit. Mother was born less than a year later. Her mother had no qualms reminding mom that she was a replacement baby. She would tell mom that she missed holding a baby in her arms, that she missed the smell of a newborn, the pangs of motherhood when a child is at its most helpless. She then had three more children in fairly rapid succession, so mother’s reign as “special” didn’t last, but the damage it inflicted did. I could write volumes on my mother’s psyche, but that’s for another sleepless night. I just find it ironic that Carolyn was the first sib to die and my mother, who firmly believed her sole purpose for being on this Earth was to be Carolyn’s replacement, was the last.
Anyway, I’m going back to my hometown this weekend to attend a special ceremony honoring my mother and her siblings. She was from a large, well known ranching family. At least they were well known, at one time. I have 21 first cousins and only one still lives in the same county. Everyone else is scattered all over Texas and in parts of the South. I’m told by friends and family members who’ve survived the loss of a parent that there are many moving parts to the initial mourning process. The last one is actually seeing the grave and headstone for the first time, post funeral. Mother was cremated and her ashes were buried in her family plot. My sisters and I decided years ago that her burial would be private. Well, it was that, all right. I didn’t even go. I watched her die bit by bit each week. I didn’t want to see the the effects of a 35-hundred degree oven on human flesh, in this small biodegradable box placed and placed in the ground. Plus, it was the day after my birthday and I wasn’t feeling well in any capacity. I feel guilty for not feeling at all guilty about not being there.
So, my sisters over saw her burial. I really don’t know the details nor do I care to know. Once a human becomes a corpse, I disassociate. I’ve never understood a visitation in which the body is viewed….I hate open caskets. I hate coffins. The mere thought of spending eternity (whatever that means) in this tiny, dark, sealed box seems unnatural. I’ve even been that way even with beloved pets.
As for my speech, I wrote it a few nights ago and it’s typically Laurie in that it’s rife with a kind of humor some cousins will find inappropriate and some honesty that most will consider awkward. I’m not bothered by the prospects either way. I’ve been a part of this phyla for 62 years now. They know who I am, why I am what I am and how I got this way. And I know their familial bête noires, as well.
Despite how this post might sound, I’m doing fine. Right? Am I not? I’m 11 weeks into trying to understand her absence and how to process the “here one minute, gone the next” ebb and flow of my grief. Yeah, I’m okay, but color me stressed. Literally.
I can tell you that the stress of her illness and ultimate death in the time of Covid has affected me physically. I was a blonde when Mother had her first stroke in mid-November. Seven months later, I’m as gray as Larry Tate, Darren Stevens’ cotton-topped, opportunistic, martini swilling boss and and co-owner of a firm of Madison Avenue ad wizards from TV’s “Bewitched”.