Thursday, January 8, 2009

Musings on Remembrance

For me, the date on which my mother died has always carried sadness, and though it has attenuated some as the years have passed, it’s always in my consciousness. I’ve been trying to think about this, as the degree to which this persists is puzzling. What does it mean that these dates carry such resonance?

I understand why the feelings from melancholy to outright anger can be so strong around milestone events. My mother wasn’t there, either for herself or for me, at my wedding, to see my miraculous babies arrive and their wondrous development, at any of my graduations, elections, etc. She didn’t ever know the love of my life. She hasn’t read anything I’ve written since sixth grade, and even early on, she was always my most interested reader. A violinist, she never saw either of her granddaughters start playing or attend any of their concerts. She wasn’t there to provide a cuddle and a lap (metaphorical) during sadness or hard times—the lost pregnancy, Kearney on a plane during 9/11, brain surgery or any of the other events that go into our individual tapestries. A vibrant, smart woman with a fierce love for life and “her” people, she hasn’t been here for advice or guidance or just to talk about the great sale down the street. We never got to know each other as adults.

There are other milestones that carry weight as well: the year that marked me living longer without her than with. The year I’d been a parent longer than she had. The moment at which I’d lived longer than my mother did, the more so since some (in)sensitive soul had told me on the day she died that I’d likely die the same way. That there’s always an awareness of those dates still makes more sense to me than this date of the death awareness.

My mother would be proud of me. She loved me. I know these things with certainty. There are the corollary likelihoods as well: that my adolescence with her could have been turbulent indeed and that she would have been critical of me, as she was of herself. At various times across my life, if you’d asked for the single most defining element of my identity, it would have been that my mother died when I was 12. It’s not any longer, though surely it is among the major shaping forces. Still, when all of this is said and acknowledged, why does the actual date of death persist in such force, especially compared to the greater loss of the meaningful moments and milestones? That puzzles me. It’s real though, and it’s here. We’ll think and talk about my mother today in her full range of quirks and loves and legacies—and how much we miss that there weren’t more.

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