It’s the small things, the little things, the inconsequential things, the things you wouldn’t necessarily think would matter. Like making warm milk on toast for breakfast and suddenly remembering how she always made warm milk on toast with just the perfect amount of sugar so the edges were sweet and crispy, and the center was all warm and gooey.
Or like driving past the Second Street off ramp and feeling like I should exit and go west, to her house, to make dinner and then play Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit. Or, on low energy nights, on nights when her back had been hurting her all day, or she’d been having trouble breathing, just watch Jeopardy on TV and then make sure she got to bed before coming on home.
Her birthday came and went, and of course I thought about her. And my birthday came and went, and of course I thought about her then too. But it was on my brother’s birthday that I missed her the most, my brother who died too young. I called her every year on his birthday. And this year she wasn’t there for me to call and say, “I still miss him too, Mom.”
It wasn’t like this when Dad died. I guess that’s because I wasn’t the one who took care of Dad when he was sick, Mom was. She made sure he had everything he needed, and tried to make him comfortable. She made sure he was never lonely. She made sure she was always there to hold his hand when he was scared.
She made it look easy.
I took care of Mom when she was sick. Turns out, it’s not that easy. But I made sure she had what she needed, and I tried to make her comfortable. And I made sure she wasn’t lonely as best I could, right up to the minute she took that last breath.
So I find it is in the odd moments, the unexpected times that I feel that lonely ache. I know it is the natural way of life for parents to die, and I accept it. I’m not morose about it, but I miss her. And this haunts me a little, in those odd moments:
Was I always there to hold her hand when she was scared?