The watching and waiting days of Advent lead to the longest night ~ one where Mom’s sister is here visiting her. I walk across town to visit with them and feel my young heart remember.
These waiting days bring more Thursday mornings with Mom and Dad ~ more working on puzzles and drinking coffee than sharing stories. They bring the gifting of Mom’s teenage charm bracelet to me one week. They bring abundant laughter and copious tears.
I don’t want you to leave.
More moments happen with me, head on Mom’s shoulder, arm linked through hers, hands clasped, fingers entwined, sobbing. All the times my little girl, teenage girl, adult young woman, midlife woman, older woman self wanted, wants, will want her mom come flooding over and out and around us in heaving sobs.
We won Christmas.
Christmas Eve is a Thursday. I sit with my parents at the dining room table. We finish the birthday kitten puzzle, eight kitten faces, eight pairs of kitten eyes popping out of gift boxes with balloons and streamers surrounding them. The missing green piece is found under the table.
We thought it was missing!
We are all getting really good at puzzles.
I plan to leave at 10:00 to shop downtown. Mom and Dad ask to join me, so we make an outing of it. Driving to the Water Street parking deck in the rain, I sit in the back seat of the Odyssey ~ the only child riding behind her parents.
It’s a positive-corrective team-building experience as I carry the umbrella, holding it above all of us to shield from the rain. I joke that I can now check make a Christmas memory with Mom and Dad off of my bucket list.
Agora Market is the perfect choice. There is a coffee shop where Mom and Dad order a latte and chai. A former preschool student recognizes them and says hello. I walk away as they talk, my eyes, the only part of my face showing, filling and spilling over with tears. The 90’s feel like an eyeblink ago.
Mom and I agree that she will select gifts for Dad, and I will take them discreetly to the counter. The cashier stows them to the side until all are gathered. I pay for them at the end.
She sees a black dress hanging. She knows it will be perfect because of the way it falls when she fans out the fabric of the skirt. I think of Jerry Seinfeld’s sketch on the difference between men and women when trying on clothes.
She also grabs a cozy sweater and chunky earrings. All are so beautiful and so her.
We return home, and I help Mom wrap gifts. She tries on her new outfit, and I leave to run some errands alone.
The smell of bacon fills the house when I return. Mom and Dad putter side by side fixing BLT’s for lunch. Mom wears a vintage apron sewn by her mother, my grandmother, years ago. My grandmother still lives with her husband in Michigan.
I won’t know what it is like to lose my mom.
My mom says this to me during a conversation. She won’t know loss. Not like this.
I can’t think too hard on that now. The pain runs deep. She and her mother are all I know of a mother ~ daughter relationship in the future. We were working hard on ours.
I thought I had at least 20 more years with her.
I hope I get 20 more days.
Mom peels and cuts a large naval orange into chunks, filling a bowl with them. She opens and pours out a small bag of Rt. 11 chips into another ~ not the Yukon Gold ones of early to mid fall ~ but regular.
I pour glasses of milk and Dad pours a Yuengling, and we all sit down. Just three of us. A Christmas record plays on a new record player that stands on the vintage record cabinet that Deanna and I helped Dad find the Saturday before.
Mom’s Christmas gift.
December was a month of gifts for Mom. We started Hallmark movies in October. That’s when the red Hallmark Christmas Movie watching blanket and the Merry pillow arrived.
It’s a delicious lunch followed by a rest for Mom and shopping trip to the co-op for Dad and me. We buy groceries and a few stocking stuffers.
Returning home, Dad disappears to his third-floor hideaway. Mom and I hunker to rest and watch a movie. This slow day ends with Steve picking me up for re-entry into my local life. I walk downstairs from the third floor with Dad to find Steve sipping coffee on the couch across from Mom ~ coffee she helped make for him.
We say our goodbyes and exit the front door. Stepping onto the porch, surrounded by the brightness of the colored LED lights and the darkness of a December evening, my heart relaxes and releases all it has held and pondered this day, and the tears begin to fall.