So anyway, my Mom died. It's now been long enough ago that we're at that stage where people I haven't seen all since June are casually asking "How was your summer?" and I really don't know what to lead with. Summer stank, thank you; shall we discuss the modern practice of grief?
I have also watched friends grieving their own losses in heartbreaking, beautiful ways throughout the summer - some here on Facebook, some in other ways. As the bustle of school year start-up settles into mundane busyness, I want to hold a meeting of some kind to develop a communication strategy, publish some kind of bulletin to head off intrusion and inanity, to divert casual acquaintances from asking about the summer, and to apologize to good friends who are not part of our daily routine and who are still behind on the news of the day: It's Saturday, and she's still gone.
When people who haven't been privy to my recent travel ask, I have trouble with what should be an easy question: Were my mother and I close? Well, there were 800 miles and many areas of disagreement that suggest otherwise, but our lives were woven together in enough ways that I feel her absence many times each day, most keenly at the time of day I'd normally call her to check in on her daily routine: meals and meds, neighborhood gossip, do we need to call a doctor, etc.
And then today. I haven't been writing, really at all, since her decline began early in the year. I've been trying to work the muscles with revision and reading, but we all know that's not the same thing. But I happened upon this scrap, obviously written in the middle of a trip, and which I only rediscovered because I'm cleaning out my email: I messaged it to myself, I guess because I was getting ready to board a plane, and forgot about it until today. Here it is, edited only for typos, once again challenging the definition of "close."
Journal Entry: Atlanta International
I just had a hot dog. That may not seem remarkable, because it isn’t, yet as I remove the last of the spicy brown mustard from the corner of my mouth, it feels so out of character that it is reminiscent to me of both deja vu and an out of body experience.
Deja vu because of the stories of the hit dogs of my youth. Never a fussy eater, I would happily consume almost anything Mom put on the plate, or on the tray of the high chair. Without going too deep into fussy neighbors’ kids, toddler insomnia, and newlywed budgets, let me just say my folks discovered quickly that they could tear up a hot dog and toss it in front of me and I would gleefully and (usually)? quietly chow down - cooking it was optional. For much of my childhood, hot dogs were the go-to comfort food, and I preferred them to hamburgers until the day the nurse looked at me and said “have you taken your blood pressure meds today?” before I was yet on such medication. In the past 5 years, I may have had 10 hotdogs (and most of those in Chicago where the law so requires). So when I reached the top of the escalator in Concourse C and smelled the grilled goodness of tube steak nearby, I was surprised to find myself following my nose so intently.
The last thing I usually do before I post one of these little essays is to send it to my mother, so she might have a chance to read it before the FFB (Facebook Family Buzz) begins. Without that necessary checkbox, I feel stalled at an intersection with all the lights blinking yellow. But I know the engine will turn over, and I will drive through.