mamma-land or lack thereof
Everyone who knows me knows that I’m not big on holidays. That doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge them; it means I don’t want others to feel obligated to participate on any set day. As my daughter Tara says, “I love you all the days, Mamma.” Yes she does, and she shows it, too.
My mamma has been dead for 17 years. I’m an orphan and regardless of how many years I acquire on my life journey—many many moons now—I miss my mamma’s living presence. Especially momentous happenings, “positive or negative”: my first published article, first essay, when I placed poems into magazines she would have read. Received my MFA. When I published Decomposition. Rant-ology!
She missed Tara’s wedding, her transformation into a fabulous, bright, kind woman (when last seen by Liliana, Tara was a tortured teen, and Dario, the son-eth, was eight), Dario’s smooth teen years, his college graduation, a creative talent in visual and musical arts, the birth of Lucas, her great-grand-baby, who just turned two.
I also miss her when my soul suffers. The poet in me, the writer—it’s what she could always understand even if she didn’t get my neuro-diversity. I was her only daughter and our skirmishes were sometimes textbook; our love, Italian epic.
The last few years of her life, my mamma and I would talk on the phone every Sunday. I lived in Washington state and she in Alabama. The night before she died, this is what I’d put into my journal:
17 November 1996 Sunday evening
I talked to my mother tonight. She’s not doing well. She’d like to die as she feels she has nothing left to do but suffer. She doesn’t understand why she must still be here. I cry with her and feel empathy yet feel helpless to soothe her in any way…The end of our conversation was telling for us both. I said to her that we might be in a better place next week. She said, “I hope I won’t be here next week.” I assured her that it would be fine with me if she is not, and that I will pray for that for her.
The next evening as I’m getting ready for my server shift, Kelly comes up having answered the phone and tells me that my mamma has died of a heart attack; I didn’t go to work. That evening’s journal entry:
18 November 1996 Monday evening
…I say, “Oh that must be what’s wrong with me.” I’d been acting unkindly all day. I was still moved by the conversation with her the night before. Kelly and I went out for Thai food because I wanted to get out of the house. Upon returning, I opened the door and I could smell my mother. I said to Kelly, “Do you smell that?” He said, “Yes, it smells like my grandmother’s house.” “No,” I said, “that’s my mother’s smell. I guess she was here.”
My sweet mother is dead…I will have to be my own mamma now. Can I do this?…
I did and I could. Mothering my own kids helped heal the “hole” of her. But my heart is never completely whole without her.
Happy Mamma’s Day, Mamma.