Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Death Versus Mortality

I remember when I was quite young laying awake for what seemed hours and hours rehearsing what I would do if my mother died. I think this is a pretty common thing for children to fixate on, but my mother's seeming frailty added to my anxiety. I know that even in college I would devote the occasional evening to this little rehearsal. My plans were not dramatic in any way; I was not thinking about other people much. It was more that I practiced how I would feel when my mother died.

Then, when I was 26, she died. And it was awful. And I cried alot. And I was sad. And then I got back to the business of living.

It's not that I quit being sad; I'm still regularly bowled over with grief. It's not that time heals all wounds; my grandmother said time just heightened the ache and I think she was right. It's just that I'm pretty practical and I'm not afraid of death and I had other things to do besides miss my mother.

Someone recently told me that it was probably her death that made me as casual as I am about death, but I have not been afraid of dying for as long as I can remember. I just figure there is only so much room in this world and if we all cling too tenaciously to life, we don't make room for the new life ever burbling forth. I also figure there comes a point when our work is done, and why should I hang around making other people take care of me when I'm finished anyway.

So that's the death part.

The mortality part hit me hard today and it's tied back into my feelings about my mother's death. My mother never saw me pregnant nor told me terror birth stories. She never held my baby or mocked me for attachment parenting. She did not tell me what to do for diaper rash nor did she chastise me for using cloth diapers. I couldn't call her when each child started to walk or when they lost their first teeth. When Ezra had cancer or when Phaedra had tantrums or when Sylvie made me crazy with chatter, I couldn't call her or ask for backup or anything. And those things make me sad sometimes and sometimes- I'm glad she's not around to fight with me.

Today, though, today...

The children were sitting with their other grandmother, the one who can visit and does, the one who listens to endless stories and watches the endless circus show, the one who is everything one might hope for in a grandmother. She brought them metal tea cans to make into time capsules, and they were each very excited by the work of filling them up and they were each debating how long they would wait to peek inside. And I suddenly realized I might not be there when they opened them. I mean, probably I will be, but it's POSSIBLE that I won't. And I asked them if I might tuck a note inside. And I told them each how much I loved them and how special they each are. And I asked their grandmother if she might not also like to put a note in. And I printed some pictures for each of them.

And how I wished that my mother had left something like that for me.

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