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Thursday, February 10

loose ends

Mom had a minor heart attack a couple of weeks ago. After a few days in the hospital they determined her heart was in pretty bad shape but she was not a candidate for surgery. They basically sent her home to enjoy the rest of her life, a period of time that might be weeks, might be months. She may outlive us all. Nobody knows.

So, in addition to dealing with the sadness of this whole thing, we are doing businesslike stuff. Rifling through her "special boxes" digging out wills and deeds and insurance policies and delicately asking what her wishes are just in case, what if, should the time come...

In one of her special boxes, we found an old driver's license with a note clipped to it: "Bob, this is the picture for the paper". She must have liked the way her hair looked that day. It is quite the bubble. And then a poem cut from a magazine about not grieving, she is always with us, which brought tears to my brother's eyes.

Combing through the mundane bits of a person's life can be an awakening. Most women of my Mom's generation left their jobs behind to raise their families and their lives seem to be measured, not by recognized accomplishments, but by loads of laundry and pots of homemade soup. I remember watching my Mom iron. She ironed everything. She ironed Dad's underwear. She ironed sheets and towels. Some items got spritzed with water, some were sprayed with starch and the house would fill with the warm smell of clean. It was comforting and frightening at once. I feared that my life would be like hers. Stuck in a kitchen, behind an ironing board, in the basement laundry room.

So I pursued college with a vengence. I dreamed of the Peace Corps, of writing a great novel. I would be a Mom with a life. I would work, earn money, be valuable.

But will it be much different when I finally take time to look back? What will be in that special box? A deed, an insurance policy. Who will remember how I fought to be different?

Perhaps what matters, in the end, is not the paperwork of a common life, but the life itself. I'm sure it was not all ironing and sweeping for my Mother, no matter how my adolescent eyes saw it. There had to have been moments of great passion, of love, of joy, laughter. I remember how the folks would get all dressed up for the occassional "affair" which involved dancing in fancy clothes, not illicit activity. I remember the dining room table surrounded by friends, drinking coffe, eating pastry, laughing. I remember the backyard pool and the parties of grownups that seemed too old to be having such fun in so little clothing, but they were probably just in their 40's.

And my parents loved each other, stayed true. Raised 2 kids who turned out OK. Worked hard for what they had and took pride in that.

There's no paperwork for accomplishments like that, no award certificates. Nothing to put in special boxes or folders tied with string. When the time comes, the taking care will be in the hands of her children, their spouses, their children. A constellation of souls that would not exist if not for her, a legacy of love.

It is enough. It is more than enough.


Louise's Son-in-law said...

A few tears from me too!


M said...

Pat, I read your blog, it brought tears to my eyes. My mother too ironed everything(that starchy smell brings memories), but also worked inside and outside the home. She passed away 4 years ago of congestive heart failure and I miss her dearly. She cut out recipes from the paper and I still find those and I wonder why. Take one day at a time. Marie