Friday, September 9, 2011
A grief of one's own...finding mama's mittens.
It happened again this week. There I was in the drug store, running a bit frantic as usual, trying to get one last errand in, my mind scattered. Then I saw her, all 5 feet of her stooped little gray-haired self, holding on to her shopping cart for balance and looking not only lost, but for all the world just like my mother did a year ago, white tennis shoes and all, the very last time I took her shopping. Mom had just lost everything she owned in a fire--knowing she was dying of cancer--she didn't even know what to buy except for her prescriptions. What did she need after all? My throat constricted and I felt dizzy. I didn't know whether to hug her or run as I stood there trying to gain some balance of my own. I ran. Salty tears pelted my tank top as I stepped back through the door, lifting my face to the deep blue sky and letting the breeze dry my blotchy face. The day before it had happened too. I was digging in my dresser, trying to find a t-shirt when my hand landed on the wooly, gray mittens. I pulled them out, remembering that I had hid them there last year, not wanting the kids to use them any more. Mom wouldn't be there--ever again--to knit a replacement pair. I fingered the moth hole and all the patches she had stitched; I held them to my heart (because that's what we do with things we love); I inhaled deeply though they've been washed a hundred times, trying to get one last scent of her. Grief certainly has a way of catching us when we don't want to take the time for her. I'm sure my interludes with her are exacerbated by my own daughter's going off to college (I can't even find solace cuddled up on the couch watching Pride and Prejudice!) and the fast approach of the one year anniversary of mom's passing.
And then there's Autumn. It's that time of year that I love. Autumn. Blue, brilliant skies and leaves that shock me every year. Autumn. Pumpkins lined up on doorstops and air with a bit of a chill. It has always been my favorite season, and yet, it has become the season that I more and more associate with loss. The only grandmother I knew died in October, my father died in late August (fall if you are a Mainer), my favorite Uncle on October 23, and most recently, my mom on October 13. Just when the colors are brightest in Maine. Last year I sat in a big Adirondack chair in front of Care Ridge Estates in Lee, Maine, sobbing as the sun came up on the frosted trees and illuminated them in all their brilliant glory. It was pre-6am and my older brother was inside, having stopped on his way to work. I woke to his sitting there at the foot of Mom's bed. I had pulled the recliner so close I could rest my head on her pillow, smell that death-smell that I am so familiar with as a nurse, and hold her hand as the blood flowed slower and slower. He was sipping coffee, teary-eyed himself. We didn't have to have words to communicate. And so I went to get my own cup of liquid adrenaline and stopped for a moment to get the tears out for awhile. But they never stop. Not really, and I don't think they should. We were made to cry, to release all that we can't possibly hold inside. It feels good, doesn't it, when you finally let the ache loose this way? What a gift in a fallen world. Someone once told me that it matters not your age when your parents die, you are still an orphan.
So bring it on autumn, it all your glorious splendor, and I will be thankful for the beauty of you and the ache you bring when I feel the frost on my nose and see the trees light up again. That ache...it's really gratitude wrapped in a different blanket. Because we wouldn't have the ache if we hadn't had love in the first place.
Need a cup of tea with that grief? Here's a great chance to get some free Twinings samples:
And also, if you like my blog, I'd LOVE your daily vote (may sure to vote for triciacliff, not Patricia Cliff, thanks) :