She knew me. I didn’t think she did sometimes. We were pretty different from each other in personality and in most ways. But I couldn’t fool her. When I became a young adult, I remember judging her some. You know that moment when you finally see your mother as a real person, you see her mistakes even if you don’t know much about them, and you try to make sense of this person who sees you from the back of her head but isn’t perfect but loves you still. You cluck your tongue a bit, but it’s not really fair. She knew I would be different. She never expected me to live my life like her. She knew when I was wrong or messing up or whatever. She didn’t always tell me, but I know that she just knew. But she still loved me. Even those last few weeks, I pushed her to take a walk outside. I have always wanted her to take more risks. She couldn’t go far, but I remember her words clearly. We sat under the gazebo outside her hospice room. I kind of wished we smoked in that moment. It seemed like a good moment to have a cigarette; but, we didn’t. She was so very tired, but still she looked at me in the eyes and blessed me. “You are a beautiful person, Katie. You just need to remember who you are. And you’ll be okay.” That was it. I asked her if she was afraid. She said, “No. Not at all.” No hesitation. Being the good social worker I am, I explained to her that it was okay to be a little afraid and fear is normal and all that. She said, “I am not afraid.” I was. She was brave. I felt small, but I knew she couldn’t take care of me. She looked at me later, and I saw that she knew that she didn’t know everything about me either. She didn’t ask. Like a true woman, she knew that she would never know everything. But, she knew.
The other day, I was cleaning up my phone. I found a text stream with her at the very bottom. There were so many texts from her that were her checking on me, encouraging me, wanting the details. There was one text where I told her I loved her. She said “I loved you first!!”
Today is her birthday. I would have called her this morning to sing to her. She would have laughed and thanked me. She would have told me all her plans for the day. She would have been excited about who was taking her out to eat. She would have asked when I am coming to see her. She would have asked about the girls. She would have checked to make sure I wasn’t doing too much. She would have wanted a present from me, but she wouldn’t say that. But I didn’t. Instead I just felt the loss of her. This evening I talked to my sister. We were brave. We even laughed together. Later we were sad. It’s easy to feel lost without your mother. She is the one person who knew, and loved and was there.
Happy Birthday, Mama.