Mother's Passing Brings Bittersweet Memories
|Miscellaneous - Miscellaneous|
The wind was cool as it would pass through the barn. The first breezes of fall where always a treat, after long hot summers the reprieve was especially sweet. The screen door would slam shut as I bolted out of the house before the sun even peeked above the horizon, startling the rooster as I padded across the yard to the stable. The rooster would shoot me a scolding glance and holler out his morning bugle with assertion and authority, then once more, as if to remind me who ruled the roost.
My mother would catch only a glimpse, ponytail in the wind, bareback, and barefoot, with a .22 gripped firmly in one hand, as I rode off, before she could hand me a list of Saturday morning chores. Usually I would come home around dark with a string of rabbits for dinner. This was one of many things I talked to my mother about last month as I sat next to her and watched her.
She was dying and there was nothing I could do to change that.
During brief lucid moments before the pain made it unbearable to talk and the blessed medication took her into sleep, we talked about the past, the memories that we shared, and the memories that she never shared with anyone.
I had gone about my life always thinking that there would be a tomorrow, Thought I could put something off until another time, that I could do a job tomorrow, take out the trash tomorrow, or call my mother tomorrow.
I am the baby of the family, born 12 to 18 years after my siblings. My father passed away 10 days after my sixteenth birthday, and my mother raised me alone. Being somewhat of an adventurer, raising me was by no means an easy task. When I decided to spread my wings and fly, I took no gingerly step out of the nest, instead, opting for a swan dive. Every time I hit the ground, hard mind you, more than once, my mother would pick me up by the scruff of the neck, straighten out my beak, pat my tail feathers, and give me a shove in the right direction. She was my rock, a lighthouse beacon, whenever I was in trouble I could look over my shoulder and still see my way home.
I never thought of my own mortality in the terms of my parent's existence. I am the one now that has been passed the torch, the carrier of the memories, the stories and the history to tell my children and my grandchildren. I tell myself I'm not ready yet to be the grown-up. But life has a way of telling you to grab hold of your bootstraps and cowboy up.
I always thought I had more time. As I sat next to her bed for three days I didn't eat, nor did I sleep for fear of missing a few precious moments. I sat, and watched, and waited.
The last hour that she spoke, she was laughing and talking about how she missed the oceans of wildflowers in Texas. Helping me clean whatever catch I brought home, scolding me about my independence and silently beaming with pride knowing I would conquer the world one day. She told me how, at only 12 years old, she knew I would make an incredible woman one day, “If she let me live that long.”
She introduced me to the nurses, again, as her "wild Indian daughter" then she would laugh, she told me how she always wanted to see Alaska. She held my hand and she told me not to be afraid. Again, even in the face of death itself, she was my rock.
After countless hours of struggling somewhere between life and death she opened her eyes and looked directly at me. I watched as her soul left her body and she found peace. It was then that I wept. I wept not for her, she was finally with the man who she loved, whose wedding ring never left her finger nearly 26 years after his death, she was with her mother, her father and her savior, she was free of pain. I wept for selfish reasons, she was my best friend, one who never judged my imperfections, now I must be the grown-up, now I must carry the memories that only her and I shared, and I must pass them on to the future generations.
Will they want to listen, or will they think that there is more time, that there is always a tomorrow?
My mother kept the journal of my adventures. The one who understood my love of the wild, the one who taught me to be the person I am, whether it be a hunter, writer or mother, be strong, be true, believe in myself, especially when the world doubted me, be honest to a fault, and grab the proverbial brass ring.
I think, perhaps I might make that trip to Alaska I have been thinking about sooner rather than later, while I have the time. I believe it would make a grand adventure for me to share with my children and my grand children, why wait for tomorrow.
© August 2007
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