(I posted this on Facebook but I wanted to share it here too)
I took down the 2009 calendars last week without much thought to it. But over the last few days something began to nag at me and I didn’t realize what it was until today. It was the empty spaces where the calendars had been with no new ones bearing the new year.
I admit I don’t really use calendars all that much, I’m more apt to look at my phone or Outlook before I go to the picture calendar on the wall. But my Mom always had them and she always always bought an extra for us, just in case we’d want one.
So there I stood in the kitchen, a little melancholy, thinking that I’d need to go buy new ones for the apt. As I looked toward the microwave I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before. It looked like a calendar (no way I’m thinking no way) but that’s what it was. A 2010 calendar my Mom must have bought and left there for the time when it’d be needed. I shouldn’t be surprised because that’s how she was about little things like that.
How long I stood there looking at that calendar before I hung it up I’m not sure but as I did a big smile came to my face and I said, “Thanks for one more calendar, Mom”
Watching what I knew to be the final days of my mother’s life were the most emotionally turbulent I’ve ever experienced. From moment to moment I was either drowned in sorrow, fixed in certainty of purpose, bathed in calmness or a dizzying host of other emotions. The one I felt the most was a familiar one. Fear. Thirty years ago I was confront by that same fear, but this time it came as no surprise.
When my father died I felt the most incredible fear you can imagine. Until that summer day in 1980 I didn’t realize how quickly a life, our lives, could change. Tomorrow was so certain until that day, and then suddenly, ‘tomorrow’ wasn’t as absolute as had I believed. I guess it really never was. The day my father died was the day I learned that tomorrow only exists as a possibility; a possibility that we may or may not experience.
I didn’t know when my father walked out of the door that Saturday night he wouldn’t have anymore tomorrows. One thing is certain though, none of us know. Our mortality is something we all live with, yet we don’t dwell on it because it’s morbid, depressing and certainly not good for positive mental health. And yet, in the case of my mother there wasn’t much choice; she was running out of tomorrows and she knew it. I knew it.
I think I was 8yrs when we moved to Inglewood, it was different for a lot of reasons mostly the noise of jet airliners flying overheard. I remember how much the noise bothered us and how we said we’d would never get used to it….and yet over time we did. The unconscious ability to either interrupt yourself while one goes by or to raise your voice to be heard took root. It’s kind of amazing what we can adapt to when we must.
Jump forward in time 18yrs and I myself in my first apt trying to unpack things and all the while something nagged at me, something i couldn’t put my finger on….the kind of thing that you pass off with a shrug. It wasn’t till I was ready for bed and having turned out the lights did I realize what was bothering me. There was no sound of commercial aircraft flying overhead to LAX! In Inglewood we lived in one of the approach corridors so there was always throughout the day the sound of jets flying overhead. And there in my new apt it was suddenly oh so very quiet; that’s what had been bothering me. Needless to say I didn’t really sleep that night or any other night for quite some time and quite frankly it was a bit unnerving even in the daytime. So for a long time I went home to hang out a lot, ah the sounds of home!
Fast forward another 14yrs and I find that I’m straining to hear something that’s can’t & won’t be heard; I keep listening for my mother’s voice. The airplanes fly overhead, sirens blare down the street, the neighbors play their music too loud and yet the silence I experience is deafening and far more unnerving than their absence would be. From the moment a child develops hearing they learn to distinguish their mother’s voice, it’s one of the first things we hear. I would say that to hear our mothers voice is one of the first things we become accustomed to, and I think possibly one of the most difficult things to be accustomed to not hearing.
I talked with my mom practically every day, even when I had moved out I always called her to see what’s what. And living back at home with her I was used to hearing her talk on the phone to my aunts and to others that it was a sound that was just THERE. And now it’s not. Gone are stories of her childhood that used to always come up, and so many other repeated ones that I’d heard a thousand times before. Even when I’d say so she’d just tell me that’s alright, she’d just tell it again in case she’d left something out the other times.
I miss the conversations that she and I had especially the ones that we had repeatedly, how we’d reminisce about my Dad, my grandmother, and memories of her sisters & brothers. Mostly I didn’t realize how much of a comfort it was just to hear her talk. It’s unnatural to have to accustom yourself to not hearing such a voice.
It’s such a deafening silence…
It’s been almost a year now since my mother Doris died and it has been a difficult adjustment for me. Over the next weeks and months I want to share some of the feelings, thoughts and memories I have of the last few years. It won’t be in any particular order but as the words come so will this blog.
Thanks for taking this journey with me.