Amidst the unpacked camping mess in my home, the death of a refrigerator and the end-of-month tax and accounting period, yesterday, I was shocked to realize we had missed my mother’s death anniversary. It dawned on me this morning as my weekend calendar filled with other family events; effectively usurping all my weekends in August.
My mother has been on my mind, lately, as I grapple with hospitality issues. Whilst in an ethnic market my son found a Danish tin can of cookies; similar to the ones my mother kept in our home. Whenever I see these tin cans my mind conjures up the image of her small, thin frame; bustling about. The hubs’ memories of her are when she spoke, sharply and succinctly to me in her native Ilocano tongue, demanding I serve the hubs, first; tsking and clucking until the task was complete. When asking for my hand he distinctly remembers her response, in broken English, which we still laugh at today. She’s not very pretty, nor is she a good cook. But if you want to marry her, that is your choice as long as it is in the Catholic Church. This was my mother’s blessing.
We had been at the St. Louis Zoo with my bff when the call came; barely visiting with her and their young family for a few days. I don’t recall much of the return flight; only the silence of the plane cabin when I was allowed access to my cell phone and received a call from my cousin (the nursing administrator) who stood by my mother’s bedside in my stead. From my responses the people surrounding me understood that I was being notified that my mother had passed; unable to get to her in time. I remembered disembarking from the ramp reciting the Kubler-Ross model from my gerontological training. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ On Death and Dying book, regarding terminal illness, had been our geriatric Bible and I was in the first stage. Stage 1: Denial. 2. Anger. 3. Bargaining. 4. Depression. 5. Acceptance. I skipped stages 2 and 3 and eventually stayed in stage 4. The last time I had seen my mother was at my middle son’s first birthday.
Each year we commemorate her passing with her favorite things: shrimp and Chinese food. I was grateful for the pre-arranged burial plan and her wishes to have a Chinese restaurant wake, post funeral. Whenever I return to my childhood home we stop at the same restaurant and enjoy our pot of tea.
Ironically enough, I was an hour away from home this past weekend. The hubs and I, normally, would visit the cemetery. When our family of five travels near this area we detour to visit my parents’ graves, the boys kneeling in the grass; clearing their headstones. But people were traveling with us and so, we chose to return south. Had I remembered her anniversary my compass would have pointed north; to the place of my birth.
It has been ten years.
I think of the things she has missed; things she would’ve missed anyway with the onset of her Alzheimer’s dementia. Her grandsons growing taller; her small family expanding to include four more. She would’ve spoiled my boys; adoring and admonishing them at the same time. Some of my sons’ favorite foods are recipes passed down by her. Whenever we have Chinese food the boys think of their Lola, remembering she loved it, especially the shrimp. My two younger boys favor her looks; particularly the middle son, the one who turned 1 right before her passing.
And so, for lunch today, we had take-out in her honor. My mother was known to always carry a flashlight at night to find her way to the bathroom. She had lived in my childhood home for 33 years but it was her talisman. The hubs, now, roams around at night with the flashlight; imitating her mannerisms. Active in her church choir I think of her each and every Sunday as I sing with our choir; my mother’s face appearing in my mind as the hubs rolls his eyes at the high pitched tones, drawn out and long. As I waited in a phone queue for the IRS, regarding quarterly employer taxes, the inevitability of death came to mind as I inhabit in acceptance; stage 5.
In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. ~ Benjamin Franklin.
Though ten years have passed, her legacy continues on. She will always dwell, within me.