The difference between curb and car door proved entirely too short. Gas pedal down. I tried to get a last look but luggage blocked the view. The constant awareness of taking other people’s time forced a quick removal. Already, despite being mere yards away, they left to the other side of the country and I was driving a car alone through a crowd of families and friends.
I made the worst decision as to how to fill the rest of my time. As my parents made their way through the airport, I drove over to a huge mall. I hate malls. Not necessarily hate, but I find the experience exhausting unless I cut off most of my peripherals and make certain not to investigate the personalities of every single person passing my way. More families. More friends. Teenagers leaning provocatively against railings, looking for cute members of the opposite sex. A girl flipping her hair.
This mall featured a carousel at the end of a food court. Moms stood next to toddlers on miniature horses impaled by golden rods. Over-gilded, impressive and yet somehow annoying.
I think of her face the next time I see her. I think of the next few lines that will appear, a symptom of stress I couldn’t help alleviate. Will she be happy? Do I have much more time with her?
The first death of a loved one leaves only a mesh of gauze to replace its hole. There’s no healing. You discover the scar feels like a missing appendage. Phantom limb. Precious. Precious time.
I didn’t know how to act. How do you accept the fact that the person you’ve lived with your entire life, who knows the most about you, who gave you everything she had, disappeared with the plane over a horizon? Localization seems so simple. I act like a dog, worried that it will be the last time I see her—one instant she’s there and the next she could be as alive as my kitchen chair.
I rummaged through sales racks and found some things to buy with my Christmas money. Even though it’s all gift money, I felt the bills slip out of my hands like water. Catholic guilt swept in. I’m doing something wrong. I’m spoiling myself. I’m buying a jacket, top and skirt when I should save for dog and cat food, refilling a prescription and a whole lot of other future purchases.
I told her that Grandpa, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, needs her. I told her that new experiences were out there. I told her to keep her options open.
“I’m twenty-two, I’ll be fine.”
“I’m an adult.”
“Your children are all grown up, it’s time to think about yourself.”
“Don’t worry about me.”
What did I do? What did I do? How could I push my mother away, even if I believed it was better for the both of us?
Because everything I said was true.
I’m fine, I’m an adult, and my wonderful mother deserves a life of her own choosing—not the confines of a city no longer nourishing her spirit.
See, Mom. It’s all okay. I’m writing like I said I would. I’m putting your investments to use. I’m doing what you told me to do. I’m spending a lot of time with friends. I spent the money you gave me as a gift on presents to myself.
Sometimes it’s best to live as well you can. Sometimes that’s the greatest treatment of a heart filled with sorrow and loss. Sometimes that’s the best way to pay back a parent’s love, acceptance, and investments in your future.
Hope that the weather in Tucson may be forever lovely and that the sun greets you as I would with a smile. May I one day be able to dedicate the clean, bright first page of a book with three words, Thank you Mom.
I miss you already.link • •writing• •family• •nonfiction•