Thursday, April 16, 2009

A journey of five years

Five years ago today, I awoke to a ringing telephone. In the wee hours I learned that my mom had been taken to the hospital by ambulance, with a terrible headache that just wouldn't let her go. You'd have a headache, too, if you had a tumor in your noggin.

By sunrise, she'd lost consciousness. By 9 a.m., she was gone.

I didn't rush to the hospital to get there before she went off the air. No, instead I took my time. I did my hair; she didn't like it when I looked unkempt. I chose my outfit carefully, and yes, I remember what I wore. I arrived in her room with the family already there, and mom appearing to be peacefully asleep, wearing the snowflake hat I'd purchased for her to keep her bald head warm. We gathered as a family - my sisters, my dad, uncle Walt, aunt Judy, nephew Alex and I - and said our prayers, shared hugs, and gave our final "I love you's" to Mom.

When I look back over the past five years, at the breakneck pace with which my life has changed, it's hard to believe I'm the same person. Sometimes, life throws us a curveball. How we choose to field it is up to us.

Consider, if you will, what has transpired in the past five years:
  • I went from jobless to career back to jobless, worked a part-time gig that was more like a hands-on Master's program, and finally found a full-time job that I love which nets me a fantastic discount on jewelry.
  • My husband left and I didn't think I could survive, but when people like you kept reminding me of how strong you think I am, I couldn't really let you down, could I? So I bounced back, foolishly sometimes, but always bouncing back.
  • I've hit the road - not extensively, but I certainly hit it. I've been to Tucson twice, Disney World twice (hey, Margaret, you're divorced; what are you gonna do? "I'm going to Disney World!"), taken a few awesome road trips and spent a week at the beach with a family that has adopted me as its own.
  • I can knit! I taught myself how because I wanted to make really soft hats for Mom to wear; she's just not the wig type. I didn't learn quickly enough - she was gone before I finished my first one - but I still consider my knitting to be her legacy. Sitting down with fiber I love and needles that feel good in my hands is like sitting down and having a chat with Mom. But not as noisy.
  • I have a home that is all mine in downtown Arlington Heights, and I really love it. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy having my time and space to myself, not having to clean up after anyone, and being able to decorate however I want. My home is not a showplace, but it is definitely my home.
  • Most importantly, I've reconnected with people who reflect my best self back to me. If there's one thing I've learned over the past five years, it's that your people are the foundation of who you are. You can tell a lot about people by the company they keep, and I hope that when you look at my network of lunatics and loved ones, you see deep love, uproarious laughter, intense devotion, family that transcends the bonds of traditional relatives, delicious food, tenderness and gentle encouragement.
Do I miss my mother? Yes, but it's not the sort of grieving that interrupts my daily routine. It still comes at me in moments when I'd really like to talk with her. "Did you hear what Santo said during the break, Mom?" or "Remember that time I got two speeding tickets in one day?" or even "Sure, I'll make you some more chicken soup."

So here's to five years of growth and change. I think Mom would be proud.


KellyAnn said...

I agree

jpb2525 said...

so beautifully put. I KNOW your mother would be proud of the woman you have become. You are amazing!