This Friday, June 30th, will mark the fourth anniversary of my dad's death. I will spend that day(s) with my mom and we will do "dad" things. It's our little ritual and I couldn't imagine spending the day any other way. My dad was a dear, sweet - not to mention hilarious - father and I feel blessed for that. The memories of that weekend haunt me and I guess in a way I still struggle with the loss. But time does put distance and soften the blow.
So on this anniversary I want to pay tribute to my momma. I am blessed to have her in my life as my mom and as my friend. I feel like she sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of our own grief - our own lives. My mom as an independent woman, living her life on her own - while it is something my parents raised me to be, it is just not something she knew herself. I struggle with this too. The picture of my mom carrying all her suitcases and travelling alone or driving off all by herself is part of my grief.
As a child she was sheltered. Her parents sent her to an all girl Catholic school. Her mother made most of her decisions for her, up to and including what she would major in while attending college. It was a traditional household. Father worked hard and came home to awaiting slippers and a newspaper and Mother did the child rearing. It was a loving household, but not an expressive one.
She saw herself through her mom's eyes.
And then she met Val. The night she met him, she knew he was The One. There was something about him. And they couldn't be more opposite. He was wild. She was more reserved. He was a partier. She had the occassional party. He was the life of the party. She was the heart of the party.
Even though she was on a date with another, he confidently asked her out for a spin in his brand new 1967 Corvette. She gushed just a little. And they went out. You knew it was love when she insisted he put the top up because she just got her hair done and he obliged her - his first day in the car. His first day under her spell. They married eleven months later.
She saw herself through his eyes.
They had three children. The children grew up in the center of their world. Together they sacrificed so much so that their kids could have the best education, the best clothes, the best friends, and the best times. They provided a loving, supportive, and expressive home. The children always felt their love and lived by their example.
To raise her family, she gave up her dreams of becoming a nurse. But she has helped people heal throughout her life. She is warm and inviting and people are automatically drawn to her. She is interested in people as individuals. It is easy to see. And she has many friends because of this.
What she doesn't realize is how strong she is. She has always lived her life dependent on others. First, her parents, then her husband. She happily took on this role. But her years of dependency flipped suddenly - unexpectedly - in one fateful night when she lost Him - the love of her life - and had to make the phone calls to the children.
"He's gone. He's gone."
She says she doesn't know what to say in troubled times, she says that He was the one who knew what to say. But she said the only words she could.
Her children showed her how to pump gas and work the ATM machine and drive on the highway. Her brother helped her figure out her finances. And she put together funeral arrangements with poise and grace. She showed everybody how to heal by just being herself. Completely selfless.
Now she stands on her own two feet. She never had the confidence before. She was always grounded by love. Her children settled into their own lives with their own families and she set out on a new future for herself. Very different from what she imagined. Very different from what she wants. But she is finding a new way to live.
I know that she still cries herself to sleep many nights. I know that she keeps his slippers by the bed. I know that she wears his and her rings. I know that she talks to him. I know that she misses him every single day.
I want to punch the Well-Meaning People who insenstively speak, "I don't know how you do it. If [love of my life] died I just don't think I could go on." It's called Life people and it never goes the way you exactly want it to and you can rue the why all the live long day. But in the end, you are still here for a reason and so you live it the best way you know - the only way you know how. Even if you have to re-learn it.
I bet she would never think that she was strong and willful. But she is. She was the pillar that held up her family after this tragedy. Her selfless example inspires. And if you believe in the soul then I know that my daddy is proud of her too.
Maybe that is why he went first. Maybe he would not have been able to find a way.
So now she has entered the phase of Independent Linda. I hope that she will find peace with this.
I hope she will see herself through my eyes.