Today is my mother's 82nd birthday. She died twenty-two years ago. Where is she? In the April rain? In the warm sun soon to come? In the tulip?
Easter Lilies. Mom, you loved those flowers.
Long time, long time, long time ago, I was your daughter. I can't remember specifically what that was like anymore, to have a mother. Just glimpses that I've written down, imagined is more like it, in poems, journals, scenes. Maybe I hid myself from knowing you, and you did your best to find me. My life was about fear then. Afraid of you, of Dad, of how to live. I learned, though. I wonder what kind of conversation or relationship we could have now? I wonder if we would tell each other, finally, the truth of our lives and thoughts and feelings? I want to say yes. I want to say I know and feel how much you loved me, despite the difficulties of your being. And I loved you, despite the difficulties of mine. I remember your care, the clothes you made me, the meals you cooked, the cards and letters and tenderness. You gave me what you could. We give each other what we can. This is a law of life and love hard to understand. I understand. People get so mad when you don't love them enough. Funny and not funny.
What never grew up in me--something lost there. A piece. What stays is its absence. Then the twins, anger/sadness. I try hard to discipline them. They are still around, behaving badly like last night. I'm lucky I have such a wise husband.
Mom, you would love Kenneth. He'd get a great kick out of you. He'd get you. I can hear the two of you laughing, leaning back in your chairs, glasses of wine on the table. I can see you playing cards with Kenneth, or he might have taught you backgammon. He'd light your cigarette and not make you feel bad for smoking. He's European and doesn't fuss over smoke. He'd sit on the deck while you enjoyed your cig and listen to you talk. I can hear him debating with you. He would love your interest in everything, in the adventures of every detail. The more I write this, the more I remember you, Jeanne Marie.
You know by now what it all means, if anything. I think it just is. The miracle of being here should be enough, but for most of us, it isn't. Like wanting others to love us more than they can love us, we need to believe in something we can be sure of.
I'm old now. I can't fool myself. I will be fifty-eight soon, very close to your age when you died. In so much time, what I'm only sure of is life as it's lived, in love as it's given. The meaning is in the purple iris plummeting up from earth to sky. In the red tulips opening like upside down umbrellas by the laundry room door, tulipping again like every spring. In going ga-ga over babies. You have two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren you've never met. The meaning is in the light in their eyes, in the curl of a tiny fist around your finger. Can I feel it for you? In the strength life has to hold on until it must let go. And we go, one by one, into the earth forever.
Why do I need more than the iris, the light, my husband holding my hand when I wake up in the morning, wondering how long we've been holding hands? Last night, did our dreams meet, and we slipped outside the window of this world to run through April rain, disappearing in the dark? I don't know how it works, this living and dreaming and dying, except it's all one thing.
Causes Susan Browne Supports
Run Together, A Race to Raise Money for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society