to My Mom Six Months After She Died
8/25/2004 Linda Eisele
This morning, I
woke up not feeling differently from any other day. Then I remembered.
I have many plans for today. I will audition for the new play tonight because that’s what Mom would want. “I’m all for it,” she
said, when I told her I had joined a troop of players as she lay dying. With
her beside me, I will be fine. I will go to the book discussion group this evening,
too, to discuss ‘The Celestine Prophecy,’ a book which came into my hands at precisely the right moment to explain the coincidences which started
happening when she died. I would be in both places at once, if I could.
Recently, I was wondering, 'How
can spirits do that? How can Mom be with Debbie and me and anyone else who needs
her at the same time?' I decided, 'Time has no meaning for spirits; that’s
how they do it.' I will tell the others at the discussion group, “Pay attention when coincidences happen. Then, God is
near.” Near? God is with
us all the time! I will tell them how ‘The Seeker’ issue of
Parabola magazine, the journal Mom subscribed to for me, arrived after she died to provide a word for what I had become when
I gave up writing.
I thought about the last words
from the Hindu essay in that issue: ‘Nothing is all.’ I thought, ‘Nothing is nothing. Even outer space is filled with particles far apart. And space
itself? Space is not nothing. Space
is the place in between the things.’
“Space Is Where The Spirits
Go.” Mom? Is that you?
I will play the piano, maybe learn
a new song for my mother, and… and hang out the laundry, pick new dahlias for the vase on the dining room table, wash
the pots and pans. I will spend today loving my mother. I feel that I have never loved anyone the way I have loved her since she died. I think, ‘This is not true. It is the same way I love my children.’
“The Way God Loves You.” Mom?
It is unconditional love.
I will end my moratorium on writing
by editing and submitting a story for the short story contest, deadline next week, and by writing a poem for the Dorothy Lykes categories of the fall Sandcutters’ contest she always entered. You can see her
poems in nearly every issue. She even won once after she died. I
wish one of mine would win… for Mom. If it does, I'll figure she fixed it with the judges. ;-)
I will put up her
homepage – "ja! sofort!" – and sew red cords onto the quilt she gave me and hang it over our bed. Hubert shall help positioning the nails this evening. I will use the
art supplies from the art box she gave me to make a picture of where she is now.
In the shower, to celebrate
her anniversary, I choose products she would have used. Ah, Head and Shoulders
shampoo! I saw it a couple of weeks ago for the first time since I moved to Switzerland fifteen years ago. I smear Neutrogena Rain Dance shower jell down my limbs. Debbie gave me the sample tube when she saw it in Price Club – “I haven’t seen this here
in years. Shall I buy it?”
As the water splashes my hair and
face, I remember Mom asking, "How was the water?" a week before she died. She had already had her last shower.
"Cold," I replied. I wish I had thought of something better to say. Years ago, when Micha and
Mark were running down that grassy hill in Logan, Utah, blonde hair blowing in the breeze backlit by golden rays from the
setting sun, and I thought, ‘This is the meaning of life: right here; right
now,' I was right.
Since my mother died, I have come to
realise there is no greater gift than being a mom.
It is an honor to watch our children grow; a privilege to be allowed to feed and care for others. It is for being my mom that I love her most, and not because she was a great poet
who counted Alberto Rios, Norman Dubie, Richard Shelton, Bill Wilkins, and Rita Dove among her close, personal friends; who
fell in love with Billy Collins less than a year before she died, telling me over the phone, “I have always fallen in
love too easily.”
When I brush out my wet hair
with the Fuller brush she gave each of her children, the tangles look just the way they did when I was a teenager in Phoenix living in the
same house with my mom and my dad, Ricky, Debbie, Lisa, and Brian. I take a few
strands at a time, brush until the knots are clear, move on to the next tangle.
Afterwards, I apply Jergens
body lotion to my skin, the original cherry and almond flavor Debbie and I bought in Phoenix summer before
last – “They still have this!?” – because it reminded
us of Mom and growing up. I rub it into my legs.
“Right, they are pretty, Mom? I have done a good job of staying
fit.” I lift fingertips to nose and sniff:
I pull on the flower shirt I haven’t
worn since we were caring for her while she was dying. In the mirror, the red
and yellow flowers seem creepy. I am not ready to wear this. I remove it and search the closet, select a silk blouse she wore in the sixties or seventies. The golden glint of its fabric matches my hair, dyed from white and gray a few weeks
ago. Mom used to dye her hair… nearly this color.
In the bedroom, the quilt she ordered
from a catalogue last Christmas lies across the foot of the bed the way it does every morning.
Debbie gave it to me two days after Mom died together with the art box and my new carpet bag purse, my last Christmas
presents from my mother. Which squares of the quilt are for whom? Hubert is the heart made of red swirls. I am the green vines
heart. And the centers? Those God-like
forms? One of them is Mom, but which? The
right one. Who, then, is the left? My
dad. I smile. And the ‘X’
and the wreath? Micha and Mark. The
cross for Mark? No, that’s Micha’s, for her ambition. The wreath is Mark, for the Olympics, for his gentleness.
Carrying shower-damp towels onto
the balcony, I compose Mom’s homepage in my head. I must be careful. Whatever words I put online today will stay.
“That Is Not A Reason Not To Do
I weave the towels through the
railings and gaze out across the emerald Swiss countryside.
“God Mom, it is a perfect
“A Perfect Morning.”
“You would love it here.” I push open the bedroom shutters. They
are as tall as the glass wall and extremely heavy. Usually, one or both hits
the end of the track with a crack. Today, both slide soundlessly, perfectly,
to a stop in exactly their right positions: a baby miracle. She is here.
“You do love it here,” I tell her.
I smile as I slide open the computer room door with delicate care, relishing her presence. In the living room, I open door-sized windows overlooking the garden, to let oxygen fill the house. I move a chair to block a window so it won’t blow shut in the breeze.
I ask another question. The
answer arrives: words in my head. “What? You
are answering me? Any question I ask, you will answer?” This
is fun. This is cool. This is great. I feel so happy. This is a game we can
play together, my mother and me.
What do I want to know? She will tell me anything. Last week, listening on the car
radio to the song, ‘What if God were one of us,’ and the words, ‘What would you ask if you had just one question,’ I blurted out, “Where is my mom, now?” If
I knew the answer to that one, I would know everything. I had smiled at the cleverness of my ‘just one’ question, serving for many.
I pick up a pen, one of Mom’s,
and begin to write for the first time in six months. This. In the garden below, the dahlias I planted for Papa, her father, are not his any longer. They become hers.
As I remove the old dahlias from
the vase, words – “Don’t Waste Time” – pop into my head. I open my mind to whatever thoughts she
will give. I will be quiet and creative, today, spending her 6-month anniversary
listening. I drink a cup of coffee, because she drank coffee. And now to work. Ah!
But where to begin?
“Laundry,” she tells me.
I write, ‘Thanks. Mom.’
I mean to write a comma, but the comma comes out a period. Mom thanking me? J
I write, ‘Thanks, Mom.’
“You’re Welcome,” she replies inside my head.
I feel like any thoughts I have
today should be considered sacred.
As I hang up the laundry, I have this feeling,
any project I begin today will be blessed. Ha ha! So, begin as many as I can!
When we were cleaning the kitchen in the sixties, Mom said, “Pretend
a tornado is coming. Anything we get picked up before it hits will be saved.”
I will start weeding the garden,
start cleaning the house, start filing the health insurance papers, start editing my novella according to Mom’s suggested
changes, start Mom’s homepage.
“Start Writing Your Autobiography,” she says.
I carry the compost into the garden. As I dump it into the container, “Eat Raspberries,” appears
in my head. I return to the kitchen. Only
one stainless steel bowl, just right for picking raspberries, is left in the cupboard.
(All the others are on the sink waiting to be washed). I can get a lot
done if I keep up this pace! I smile.
Shall I go back outside barefoot? What about the wasps? I feel like risking
it: Mom will take care of me. I shouldn’t
take this thing too far; 'God helps those who help themselves,' she would tell me. I stand with feet planted slightly apart in the soft earth and reach as far as I can over the bushes,
plucking raspberries. Eventually, the bowl slips and falls to the ground, raspberries
tumbling out. I pick them up, one by one.
“Enough,” she says.
Next, I set to work trimming old
dahlias and roses. Then, I work weeding the flower hill until 11.30. The bees humming around the oregano blossoms do not sting me as I step between them. A bumble bee enters a white gladiola: he will not hurt me.
Finished in the garden,
I play Scott Joplin on the piano Mom would have wanted me to fix. Refurbished
since she died, it sounds like new. ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ is an old song
I played in the Phoenix days. 'Something old, something new, something
borrowed, something blue.' I borrow Micha’s old book of songs to learn
something new. The book falls open to ‘A Tear,’ something blue, by Modest Mussorgskij. I play it for the first
time with nearly no mistakes, learning it for Mom. Next, I sit down at Mark’s
computer and open the Tripod site builder page on the internet. I type, “I am Dorothy,” the title for her
new homepage, while eating fresh raspberries. God, how she loved these. She made me stop as we drove into Cache Valley toward Logan, Utah in the early nineties, Micha and Mark in
their car seats on the back seat. She bought us a tray of fresh raspberries from
a young man and woman who stood beside their white van at the crossroads. I am
going to eat fresh raspberries all day long.
Writing feels so good. “Why
have I kept away from this for so long?” I ask her.
This time, her answer is only silence.