On Friday, November 28th, it will be 50 years since my mother passed away. I was a small child so my memories of her are those of a small child, but they stay with me. I hold them with a desperation that takes the breath away. I have a constant fear of losing what little I have of those memories. Because of a medical situation, the majority of my childhood memories are gone..and those that remain are spotty and sometimes questionable. But I cling to those of my mother with a desperation that sustains me as life itself.
When I was small, we lived in a subdivision in a white house with blue shutters. The garage door was blue to match the shutters and the back yard was enclosed with a chain link fence. I can remember a time or two when our electricity would go out. My mother would light an oil lamp and we would sit together on the couch where she would share stories of her childhood and her life. I don’t remember the stories but I remember those moments of the two of us there together in the soft light. I don’t remember her voice but I remember how it made me feel. I remember her face from photographs. I remember her zest for life. And I remember her being taken at the young age of 33. I remember her dark hair and her smile and while I don’t remember her laugh, I remember hearing it and that it made me feel happy and secure.
I have letters my mother wrote in the last year or so of her life. In those letters, I have come to know my mother as well as I can. I learned from those letters that she loved being a mother and would have welcomed more than the four children she already had. Those letters reaffirm the love that she and Dad felt for one another and that tells me that such love IS possible. The way those letters described her feelings and her life have brought my mother closer to me as I grow older and that means more to me than I could imagine. From those letters, I learned how adept she was at finding the unique and wonderful aspects of each of her children’s personalities. She saw those things and she appreciated and celebrated them.
To my mother, it seems family was everything. I often wonder what great differences there would be in my life and that of my siblings if Mom had lived. As a writer, I imagine ways to introduce her to the vast and unbelievable changes which have taken place since 1964. I have written out scenarios where I am able to explain many of those things to someone suddenly thrust forward 4 or 5 decades. Those efforts have helped me to create some sort of connection with my mother.
We each deal with grief and loss in our own way, and much of my efforts have been to cling to those vague memories of a 10 year old girl. They have come out in my writing and I have strived to keep Mom’s memory and her zest for life alive in my own life and that of my children. I can only hope she would approve. I can only strive to live a life that would make her proud.
After 50 years, I am still that 10 year old girl who lost her mother. I am still that child who was never given reasons or comfort for such a horrible loss and I am still that little girl who was forced to deal with the end of her world all by herself. The memories I can find are glorious and deeply cherished, but those lost haunt me each day.