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.
Memorial Day was “our” family holiday. It’s now my remembering. After my parents were discharged, they returned to Father’s home town to realize their life’s long-held dream of raising lots of children, together. (Eventually, there were nine of us, seven living into adulthood.) My father was groundskeeper (one of many jobs) and then the sexton, of the village cemetery, and we children, while growing up, worked with him to get the grounds ready for the Memorial Day observances. Mother was in the Navy, and Father was in the Army, separated overseas, but both serving in the Pacific Theater. (In uniform).
I find it interesting, how different the topics are for my online journal from the paper journal that I have returned to since the first of 2018. Things that I would only post, if at all, on my Patchwork Prose site, which still suffers little to no traffic in any given month. (I have not brought myself to write there much.)
I suspect that I am more secretive than I’d thought. Or, more accurately, how much a “private person” I’ve turned out to be, simply because I do not talk much about externals. Because I don’t live in the externals.
Often, a “thing” or “experience” seems not objectively real until I write it down somewhere. Or relive it to myself in words so that it will stick. I have found it interesting that I can go back through memory and reimage, should other events overtake me, and so file a happening in words in my mind or on paper afterwards. Not always, but sometimes. Enough.
When I look back through the written journals before I shred them (I have journaled since my high school years), I find that a lot of what I have puzzled over/pondered, surprises me. Looks unfamiliar. The same is true of my online journals. Excepting, perhaps, the poems that I write.
We have a lot of rabbits in our yard and the surrounding neighborhood, which we appreciate, since they provide a lot of exercise for our dogs. First thing in the morning, they are eager to go outside and check for rabbits who’ve stayed out eating past the softer light of sunrise. They have such fun! Especially when the rabbits run off in different directions…or taunt the dogs by making an extra detour around the garden shed before slipping out through the fence.
When I see her now
she looks so much younger—
filled with song
vigorous and happy, radiant…
sorrows past, still in love
—Elizabeth Bennefeld, 2017-11-18
My mother died on 15 November 2016 (age 94, and my father, a little more than 3 months later, age 100), and I have been trying to write a poem for the Day 14 prompt from PoetryPotion: “When I see my mother”. It took me a while, but it was a writing prompt I wanted to respond to. (Also posting this on my Quilted Poetry blog.)
These photos are from my personal album. My parents took a lot photographs throughout their lifetimes. As we left home for college, we each received a large photo album with a copy of every photograph that included us. Mine is on the bookshelf just to my right as I sit in the front room. This first group is photos taken the first winter in our “new” house. They started out building a basement house, adding the upper story (which my mother designed and drew up the blueprints for) before I finished grade school. My mother’s father took endless correspondence courses, and she and her father took architecture courses together; she also worked at the hardware store until she left for college.
In the summertime, Mother would send Dad and me out of the house, so that she could take care of the younger children and get housework done. (I was an active, precocious child.) I enjoyed going fishing, learning how to remove the scales from the fish, learning how to mark a trail through the “woods” in the pastures along the river, and going out into the fields with my father and his brothers when they went hunting for pheasants. (When I reached the proper age for such, I was the only girl in the school-sponsored Hunter Education Program.) The table at which I am sitting in that last photograph above is a picnic table that my parents built to serve as a kitchen table in the basement. (Mother’s father had a lumber yard, back in Iowa, and she was really handy at planning and building shelves, bedsteads, daybeds and whatever else needed doing. Together, she and I built the furniture for my first apartment after college and refinished some pieces that we picked up at the Salvation Army Store.)
Three more photographs. First is the “gathering of the Wicker clan” for Father’s 100th birthday party, the day after Mother’s memorial service in the home town. The second is a photo that Dad had taken to send to Mom while they were in the service (Army and Navy, respectively). The third is a portrait photo of Mother in uniform.