Category Archives: Mom

Nostalgia, Love, and Mystery

I sit in a recliner, feet up, listening to silence occasionally interrupted by the moist noise of a dog licking peanut butter from her Kong and the rhythmic whirring of a sewing machine. My friend is in the other room working on a project as I breathe and find space after an unusually difficult day.

This is my friend’s house, the door generously open to me for some time away from my own mess. I don’t notice a bit of hers. I relax into the kindness of her giving as I receive stillness.

Last week she made lunch and we caught up with each other after a month of being apart. She is a heart friend who knows me and gets me and sees me. We talked and laughed and cried over many things. Time flew.

This is your birthday lunch. What would you like?

She offered two options. I chose the one that kept us where we were, making salads as we continued talking. We walked from the living room to the kitchen. On the counter were two cake boxes.

Those are your birthday cakes. They are thawing. I wasn’t sure what you would want for your birthday. I stood in front of the freezer at the grocery store way overthinking it. Do I get key lime pie? Then I told myself just stop and listen, and these cakes called my name. I have never bought them before. They are not at all what I was looking for.

Waves of nostalgia washed over me as I snapped a picture to send to my sisters. Their replies rolled in quickly.

It was Mom guiding.

Are we surprised? This is sweet.

Can’t make it up.

I agree. Any white cake was Mom and a nice cup of cawfee. (Can you hear my accent?)

Love this! Though the cakes don’t scream Mom to me as much which is interesting. (This is from the youngest.)

The Pepperidge Farm days were definitely Maryland years, maybe Virginia. Pre-Florida. (Time before the youngest.)

Yes, coconut white cake was definitely a Mom memory.

These cakes are the ones Mom got for birthdays or celebrations when we were kids. She liked the coconut and got chocolate for us. Of course I had a slice of each and basked in the nostalgia, love, and mystery.

Happy Birthday, Barbara!

Barbara McClay’s birthday is today.

Facebook tells me this and asks if I want to write on her timeline. Of course I want to wish my mother-in-law a happy day, so I click to her page. Upon arrival, I am also told she is 82. This hits me in the gut with unexpected tears.

82.

Ten years I won’t get with my mom. She died shortly after 72. We are over.

And this is grief. Some days the memories are gentle and sweet. Others they sneak up beside you only to smack the side of your head bringing swift and copious tears.

This part of July still bears innocence when one year ago today memories pop up on my phone. There was no urgency to grab all of the normal time you can because this is all going to flip on its head in a few short weeks.

I didn’t know what was coming.

In fact, I didn’t blog at all last July. I checked. I didn’t write about the camping trip or kayak date or what Mom brought back for me from Michigan. I didn’t record the mundane work I did in my basement studio while Mom worked in her office above me.

I didn’t share that we had a coffee break together or laughed about something silly or that she helped me open a wallflower plugin that I couldn’t quite get by myself. It was all just regular, ordinary. Nothing special.

When you lose someone you love there’s disorientation, coming undone, reorientation, remembering.

In this space of reorientation I am trying to embrace and name honestly the reality of what just happened. I am trying to remember back so that I can look forward. What happened is my mom died. She left. Our time together expired.

And today there is still time with Barbara. So I text her and plan to see her after dinner when she brings over cake and we celebrate her 82 years of life and the gift that she is to the world.

Happy Birthday, Mom McClay! I love you! I’m glad you are here and that there is still time to spend together playing Pokemon-Go and eating all the cake we want. 😉

Ordering My Thoughts

Write.

Just do the thing for the time. Get the words from your head, through your fingers, and out there.

I’ve been awake for what feels like hours with all the thoughts. I’ve done the breaths and prayers and gotten out of bed to peer through the blinds at the street, checking that all cars are home and accounted for.

Lying in bed, words flood my head, press my chest, spill through my eyes. I know when I won’t return to sleep, and it’s now.

I ease out of bed and into my robe. Drinking the remaining water in my glass, I exit to the kitchen.

Last night’s late-night mess greets me, and I begin cleaning up. Only as long as it takes to heat water for my hot morning drink I tell myself, rejoicing when I open the dishwasher to dirty dishes that don’t need to be put away just yet.

I fill the empty spots with glassware, silverware, random plates. I add a detergent pack and set it to run.

I grind coffee beans, dumping used ones into the compost tub on the counter, and fill the coffeemaker with water. It’s ready to press start in a few hours.

Turning the burner under the kettle, I notice a grease-splattered surface and stovetop in need of cleaning. I resist my urge to fill the sink with soapy water, a mark of growth for my Enneagram 9 self who does all the right tasks at the wrong times.

Yes, it’s a job that needs to be done, but not now when I am supposed to be writing. I don’t have to do it early Sunday morning.

I spoon the citrus-ginger-honey mixture into a mug, adding lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and several shakes of cayenne pepper. The kettle rattles and begins to whistle. I lift the hot handle with a kitchen towel and carry it to pour over and stir everything together.

Walking upstairs, mug in hand, I make a final stop in the laundry room to start a load of laundry that has been soaking before settling on the small couch in my tiny home office to (finally) write.

Tomorrow marks 4 months since Mom died. July brings us to the final days of before.

I still feel fragmented. I begin looking for the pieces that shattered with the news, It’s not good, and were left for me to collect sometime later. Over the course of this descent into darkness, I took notes, telling myself I would order them later, but life keeps rolling on and doesn’t wait for you to do it perfectly.

This month I told myself, I will write. I will coax words and memories and try to wed them. Thank you for your patience with me on the journey of ordering my thoughts and finding my words.