It’s been a while since I’ve deliberately set aside “vacation” time over the end-of-year holiday season. With the quiet of the pandemic and the increasing activity online, I think I need to cut back my hours interacting with people. While I was working freelance, especially during the busiest of those thirty years, I set aside the Christmas and New Year’s Day weeks as a quiet space in the midst of all the activity. We cut down holiday visits from two households to one, when my parents no longer wished to entertain, and since, the expanding families in my husband’s line have resulted in his siblings refocusing, also.
Until the pandemic came along and the virtual face-to-face interactions popped up via Meet and Zoom, Discord, and other venues, I felt…safe from disruptions. Now, I need to mark off blocks of solitude, again. Gathering/settling time for us—our family unit of adults and dogs. And space for quiet reengagement with and within my self.
Celebrating the anniversary of Father’s birthday on Saturday. He would have turned 104. He thought that 100 years was overly long. I wonder, you two, if you still do something special together on the Special Days. Dinner and dancing with friends? Just curious…
I woke up thinking, “I should call Mom, today”,
forgetting that she died three years ago this week.
Forgetting that she had not taken a call from me
at least half a year before I got called to have
the ambulance tear her from her only home.
I still want to call her and ask about her week
and the previous years since we last caught up.
I don’t know where she’s sitting, or if she wants
to walk with me along a pasture fence
in a place not new to her…or one not new to me.
If I go ahead and start a new conversation,
should I pause between my sentences?
to see if she will answer me or make
a comment of her own? She liked to talk to me
but she didn’t always listen. Now, I wouldn’t care.
I have looked through all the emails. Of course,
none are new, and the last that were coherent
were sent a year before she died. I hadn’t,
really hadn’t noticed how far things had gone.
Or feeling bewildered, I didn’t want to see.
When Mother wasn’t panicking, she took me
as she found me, loving me all the while
she wondered why I wanted to be me
and not the daughter that she’d wanted. But
she still trusted me to do what must be done.
I can feel her arms around me, giving me a hug.
I can’t hear her voice, but she knows when I cry.
She can hear me talk to her and read what I write.
I know that she and God are always present to my life.
The separation that I feel is just an odd notion in my mind.
Edited to add: Another in the previous generation of relatives just died this morning; he was 95 years old. Alert and lucid to the end; a low blood oxygen level for a couple days, and then his heart just stopped beating.
When we were children (there were seven of us, and I am assuming that others got roped into this, each in their turn), Dad hired us during May and as needed during summer school vacations to maintain the grounds of the village cemetery where he was the groundskeeper and sexton. He didn’t retire until he was in his 90s. There was particular need for us children to prepare the cemetery for Memorial Day and to refurbish things after the influx of visitors during the following months. My brother Tim and I worked together, being close in age, and we would pass the time by challenging each other with such miscellanea as state and country capitols and other interesting trivia.
My mother died three years ago, this month, and my father followed her three-and-a-half months later. Their ashes are buried next to the family monument, near two siblings whose lives were measured in days.
within the past three years… Suddenly, I’m homesick
for a place I’ve never seen.
Mourning seems to come in waves. In the midst of happiness, remembered losses beg not to be forgotten. That’s a trap, I think. The insistence of the mind on revisiting those intense emotions, long after one has moved on. The bittersweet taste of loves and friends and family set aside until time ends, or else, renews all things.
As the years go by, I find myself thinking more frequently about staking out more formal times for solitude. Initiating rather than reacting. Turning inward. Perhaps I am more easily distracted, these days, and troubled more by externals that interrupt my thoughts. And then I review the proclivities of my past and recognize that there always has been a struggle for more isolation…for fewer interruptions and broader perspectives. I like the quiet that allows thoughts and images to flow together. The currents and their directions, the coming together and the divergence. Spontaneity, the mind at peace.
As I write this poem, I am listening to an ongoing spring blizzard that has delivered over seven inches of snow, so far today. We expect another five to seven inches before the storm ends. The tulips and daffodils long since emerged from the warm, damp grown. I am trusting the new snow to protect them from the wind and icy rains still to come.
I have looked at photos from previous years, and April snows are not that unexpected. Still, it is strange to be confined to house and outbuildings by snow drifts, when at the beginning of the week, I was outside barefoot and without a jacket.