May 10, 2020 | I have a confession to make: I forgot it was Mother’s Day! I woke up this morning with a dull headache. (Actually, it was 1 p.m. because I stay up all night.) I felt slightly depressed and disoriented. This is unusual for me. My first thought was that the quarantine was finally getting to me. But it’s more than that. It’s the grief I feel about losing someone I cared for for so many years, plus the unnerving, new reality of the pandemic — self distancing, quarantines, many weird dreams, anxiety about what the future holds, and many new risks beset each day as I’m trying to live what was once a somewhat normal life.
I was jolted with the news it was Mother’s Day by two text messages — one from my minister, who was with us the night Mom died, and the other from a good friend from work who said he was thinking of me. (I worked with him for almost 20 years before I retired.) He lost his mother very suddenly in New York about six weeks ago. My minister said she was thinking of me on this first Mother’s Day since Mom died. It will be four months on May 28. It was emotional hearing from them. I usually think of Mother’s Day as falling on or about May 15, so that’s one reason I forgot.
In one of my text message replies I wrote, “Its getting quieter and quieter in the house, just as Mom’s presence is becoming more palpable.” I use this term for a reason. It means a feeling or atmosphere so intense it seems tangible or real. I feel it is real and tangible because I feel her presence. I can’t point to something psychic, but to me it’s real.
Everywhere I go in this large house I find something that reminds me of her. There’s her favorite wooden backscratcher I bought at Dollar Tree. Her weekly pill container. How many nights did I carefully count out her meds and put them in there? I couldn’t look at that any more so I threw it away this afternoon. I’ll root around in the freezer for something to eat for supper and find half an ice cream sandwich in a plastic bag which she didn’t get to finish. That happened again just yesterday. A few days before that I found a Mother’s Day card I gave her years ago. I always prided myself on my cards and used to spend ages in the Hallmark store trying to find just the right one. She appreciated them so much. One of my biggest regrets is that, as her dementia got worse, I got out of the habit of giving her a Mother’s Day card. That was a big mistake. My advice to anyone reading this who still has their dear mother is to never stop giving a Mother’s Day card, even if she doesn’t recognize you any more. Mom didn’t have Alzheimer’s, though there were many occasions near the end when she looked at me and asked, “Who are you?” Most of the time I’m convinced she recognized me as her son or at least as the person who was with her all the time.
There are other things that remind me Mom, and these include personal items of hers that my sister and I have not yet discarded — I don’t know if I ever will be able to throw out some of it. The very thought is upsetting. I already have one box of items. The pandemic has precluded my sister from flying here to help clean out the house, and I can’t quite bring myself to do it myself (nor would I want to). My sister has to be here when that’s done.
I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and I would be hard pressed to write something new that so perfectly captures how I’m feeling tonight:
“Whenever I look at a framed copy of my favorite photograph of Mom smiling at me in the upstairs hallway, I feel a surge of emotion, sometimes brief sadness and grief, but more often than not I feel happiness and the power of her love and her continued presence with me.”
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I love you and miss you terribly.