The pros say, when writer’s block hits, write a “Dear Mom” letter. And yet, “Dear Mom” sounds a lot like “Dear John”, and this turned out as the latter.
Hey Mom, It’s me, Annette.
I watched you sleep today, your head nodding to the tune of the tapping of leaves in this extraordinary summer of opposing weather patterns and tug between life and death. The red cardinals continue to flit about. Two in the past two days. I know what that means, if I still in believe in transcendence.
Today, no headphones only the sounds of summer. We’ve always had our summers, didn’t we? When I would flip my schedule so we could roam outside, before the heat sucked the life out of both of us. But the summers I ruminate on now are of long ago, of a backyard plastic pool filled with bugs and cracked on its lip, five kids running through the sprinkler, banana seat bikes parked, semi-respectfully, a clamoring of what’s for lunch? A lunch of Italian bread, Italian salami, Roma tomatoes, always Italian something or something Italian. We were always something Italian.
I’m struggling, Mom. Enzo died a month ago and his loss tore open the wound that has been my loss of you. Science says you are mainly heart and lungs now, living with limited cognitive ability to will yourself awake, asleep or away, away from a life neither of us could have imagined for you, but one you have lived regardless.
But me, I am all spirit, or trying to be, and not of science. So I wonder, what it is in your spirit that has compelled you to hold on? You have outlived modern medicine and yet there is still something locked inside that must come out, that you must let go.
But, its not you who needs to do the letting go, is it?
Everyday I have said goodbye, because the person I have loved today will not be the person I greet tomorrow when we remake our moments all over again. So, how do I say goodbye to someone I said goodbye to a thousand times before?
When I trekked to Central School on my bike, a canvas backpack slung across my shoulder blades as warm weather settled in. Years, later when I left for Oregon, pregnant. After you visited your new grandson and put up dozens of jars of blackberry jam. After telling you Devin had been diagnosed with leukemia—over the phone, some 2,000 miles away. When I moved back to Cincinnati, reluctantly, and offended you because I didn’t want to come “home”. When Devin died and after his funeral and after all the golf outings in his memory. After the hundreds of miles traveled in between. After I said, I do to Mark. Later, at the conclusion of our sojourn to Italy.
And then? Then I lose track. I lose track of when you started losing track of the proverbial keys, the order of your grandchildren, the ability to cry over Dad’s death and all those times I rushed into your arms – you hidden away – me – hiding away – when life became intolerable or scary or both.
This letter was meant to be my official declaration of letting go – we always had our letter writing, didn’t we, such that I wished you could have learned to turn on a laptop before your mind shut down. Perhaps you could have typed or written what was still in your spirit.
So yet again, I have to suppose. I have been supposing on your behalf for a long time.
Suppose you are afraid in a hospital bed, alone, the darkness coming. What if you are in pain and too fearful to move and you can’t tell me? Suppose you’re mad at me, for what I don’t know? Suppose you can actually feel the joy that is apparent in your innocent, wide smile? A smile that still kills when you open your tired and droopy eyes and see a face that brings warmth to your heart.
What if I have held on too tight for too long with too much of my own strength, crushing yours. And suppose it is not been my strength but my anger instead?
What if I simply said goodbye just one day without all the fuss and locking my arms around you?
What if I was silent for once, will I hear you leave?
Suppose I let you go?
In a matter of days, I will be stepping on a plane, departing for reaches known to you and me—Oregon. I’ll be watching Davis graduate, but more importantly, I’ll be sleeping in a place that has carried me, and carried also my grief. I’ll be making a pilgrimage to a land where I have learned to let go time and time again. It is my touchstone in a way that you have become my touchstone.
And I will have to trust, in you, that you will know when to release that tight grasp of yours, the one affectionately referred to the “death grip.” I will have to trust in my sisters and brother that they too will work side by side by hospice to give you the space and time for the comfortable death you and I have worked hard for over the years to achieve.
And I will have to trust that if you leave me, before I return, we have already said what needed to be said not with our words, but in the silences, between the beats of our hearts.
Love you, Mom.