Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Next stop, Reflectiontown

It makes sense, I suppose, that a person living in her deceased mother's house might find herself pausing every so often for a moment of reflection. Or she might find herself in a never-ending headlock of reflection. She might be filling up the tank of her Reflectionmobile (seats seven comfortably!), buckling her reflectionbelt and setting out on a road trip for Reflectiontown, where the residents have made her their new mayor and plan to celebrate her inauguration with a big parade down Reflection Street culminating in a huge concert called Reflectionpalooza on the outskirts of the city at Reflection Park. Today would have been my mother's birthday. Her 58th altogether, but the second one she has spent somewhere other than in this mortal coil. (My guess: She's spending the day shopping, looking in on her family, drinking a big cup of chocolate/hazelnut coffee and smoking, because in heaven, cigarettes don't give you lung cancer or turn all your curtains yellow.) Since she died just over a year ago, I've had many dreams about Mom. I know people - intelligent people - who believe quite sincerely that our departed loved ones visit us in our dreams. That could be true. Two days after Mary's funeral last year, I had my first office visit with my oncologist. I woke up at 5 a.m. that morning dreading the visit and heartbroken that Mom wouldn't be accompanying me, as was her eternal duty as both my mother and a nurse. I lay in bed and cried, then fell back to sleep and dreamed that Mom and I were in the doctor's waiting room, and she was helping me fill out the new patient forms. When I woke, I felt better. I was still scared, but a little less so. Was it a visitation from my mother? Maybe. That sounds like the kind of thing she might do. The most frequent dream I have about her is that somehow she has managed to return. She wasn't dead yet. She got better. "Yay," we all exclaim in this dream, "Mom's back!" Oh there are lots of hugs and plenty of questions, to be sur - questions like, "Where have you been for the past year?" It's a grand celebration, and everyone is overflowing with excitement, happiness and love. Everyone except me, that is. I am too busy worrying about how to tell Mom that we've already spent part of her retirement money. "Um, we didn't think you'd be using it?" The most painful dream I have about her is that she is with us, but only briefly, and only because she doesn't realize yet that she has died. In those dreams, I know I have to tell her what has happened, but I put it off as long as I can. Telling her means having to lose her again - having to start over from scratch with my grief. Sometimes in those dreams, I get angry with her for what she's putting me through. *Again.* (That's the selfish part of me talking. The part that spends my mother's retirement money.) But mostly it's sad and unavoidable, like bringing your child to the doctor for shots. I think those dreams are more about me than about my mother. Besides, if Mary wished to visit me, she wouldn't be patient enough to wait until I was asleep. She would break right in on my waking hours. A month ago, on the first anniversary of Mom's death (which also was the first anniversary of our match with our daughter), we were having the kind of day that feels like plowing through pudding. Nothing was as easy as it should have been, and the day's being a tragic anniversary put an extra edge on every irritation. I was trying to focus on happy things - how nice it will be when (not IF, but WHEN) our home repairs are finally finished, how amazing my husband and children are, how nice it might be, just maybe, if Buttercup and Xerxes had little sister. Just a thought. A happy possibility. At the end of the day, exhausted, we decided to stop some place cheap and quick for supper. We walked in and were seated across from a family of two Asian girls of about 8 and 10 and two white parents. One of the girls showed immediate interest in Buttercup, and after the family had finished eating, they approached us. "Is your daughter Korean?" the mother asked. "No," I replied. "She is Chinese." The older daughter, who had been so interested in us, marvelled at the coincidence. "*I* was adopted in China, too!" We quickly found that there were other coincidences, including that the younger girl came from the same province as Buttercup. And it was a significant day for this family, as well. "It's my birthday," the older girl informed us. "Yes," said her mother. "Today is Mary's birthday." If my mother were able - and, really, who knows - she might subtly nudge us, on the anniversary of her death, in the direction of a bubbly little girl with the same name who was celebrating the anniversary of her birth. Yeah. That sounds like something she might do. My favorite Mary dream came a couple weeks after she died. It also was the first dream in which I knew she had died, but she didn’t. We were packing her suitcases. We were talking about ordinary things. Have you tried this brand of coffee? Did you get an invitation to that cousin’s wedding? Did you see the politician make a fool of himself on TV? I was driving her to the airport. I wasn’t going to tell her the news until we got there. I looked at her in the passenger’s seat, expecting her to be nervous about the plane ride. But the sun was shining on her blonde hair and she was laughing. Mom got nervous about a lot of little things, but never about flying. We got to the airport. We opened her bags for security, and repacked them. We rode an escalator, and made jokes about the person in front of us. We giggled all the way up. At the top, it was time to tell her goodbye. Time to let her know her ticket did not allow for a return. I sobbed and choked out the news to her, but she was not alarmed. She hugged me and fixed me in her green eyes and said, “This just means I get to love you BIGGER.” Yes. That sounds exactly like something she might do.


Anonymous Marie said...

Wow! You bring me almost to tears, and my own mother is still alive. What a beautiful post and a beautiful tribute to Mary.

8:58 AM  
Blogger PPB said...

this is beautiful

7:18 PM  

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