I found a card from my Mom today.
This may not seem like a big deal, but my Mom has been dead for over 13 years. She died 5 years after my Dad. They were both relatively young when they moved on, he at 69 and she at 72.
I was cleaning out my attic, getting ready for our big move, and there it was among my high school yearbooks and letters from my first boyfriend. It’s a little card in the shape of a heart with scalloped edges. It has a Victorian-age woman (just my Mom’s style) on the front. The inside is blank except for my Mom’s familiar script:
My Mom died of dementia and complications thereof. By the time she passed, I was grateful to have her spirit leave behind the prison of her brain and body. She suffered and deteriorated for almost ten years and we, her children, could do nothing but witness. It's a terribly cruel way to leave this world and brutal for me and my four siblings.
When we first started noticing signs that something might be going on, I had just had my second baby. I was deeply wrapped in my own self-imposed drama and had very little attention to spare, even for a mother that I loved completely. Time slipped away and her symptoms insidiously worsened. Now, as my children get older and I’m finally coming out of the haze of early parenting, I’m beginning to realize some things I hadn’t before.
I think back to over twenty years ago, when I left her with my new baby--her first grandchild. She had come to visit and I was thrilled to have some help. Our new little family of three had just moved from California to the East coast and we didn’t have any support. My Mom and Dad now lived within a two-hour drive and she had come to help out. A mother of five herself, I handed her my four-month old with no apprehension and practically ran out the door. This was my first taste of freedom since I gave birth, and the thought of even driving to the grocery store alone made me tingle.
When I returned home an hour later, they were both crying. "He hates me," she muttered between sobs. I walked over and took my little boy from her arms, his face blotched with tears, his breath in spasms. Here I was, a mother for only a few short months, and I needed to reassure my veteran mother of 34 years. She was quite shaken by the episode and from then on refused to be alone with the baby. At the time it annoyed me, I mean, what the hell? “I could really use some help here!” thought my selfish, self-centered brain. I didn’t have the capacity to see beyond my own life at the time.
Something was up with my Mom, and we didn't begin to see it for several more years. We weren't schooled on the early signs of dementia. But now we know, and it's a heavy knowledge gained through a brutal education.
I wish that I had known then—when there was still time—to ask some questions. There's so much I want to know from Mother, especially now that I have children of my own. I'd ask about Her and how she felt having all of those children. Did she ever feel lonely and lost in the crowd that she created, like I do sometimes?
I'd ask about me, too. I can't recall much of my early childhood. I don't have a clear memory of my young self and it's unsettling at times. I feel like I've lost something—deep part of myself—without the benefit of either of my parent’s testimonies. Maybe I was fun, like my girl (she's the fourth, too), and I can be kind of funny...maybe that showed a kid. I have no one to ask. Oh, I could ask my siblings, but that’s not the same. They don’t know me as a mother would. A mother knows special things. I wonder what my Mom saw.
Finding this note gave me back a small piece. To see the curve of her delicate writing thrilled me today, as well as her message. She said I was a delight! Gosh, I hope she meant that and wasn't just writing it to fill space. But this was a Valentine’s day card, not a birthday card or something else as obvious. She didn't need to send me a card on this day. She chose to think of me. She chose to write those words out. Perhaps she sent the same card to each of my four siblings on this day, but that is of no matter. I know she loved us all equally and there's no need for competition in that arena. We were all fortunate to share a special bond with my Mother. I know all five of us would say the same. I never doubted that she loved me, even though she had so many, but I never knew I delighted her and, man, does that feel lovely.
I loved my mom. I still talk to her. When I'm struggling, I call her up and we talk.
She's there for me, sometimes I can feel her.
I wish it was more.
But I did find this card today.
And it told me I was loved.
And I was a delight.
Seeing that familiar script today brought her back to me in a different way. I'm so glad that on that day in 1987, I decided to save that little card.
Lots of things are being tossed as I move our family into a new home, but this piece of my Mom will make the cut.
I will carefully tuck it away for another 30 years, waiting to be discovered yet again.