Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Forgetting

Mom and me
Mother's Day
2003

When my mom passed away in May of 2011, Hannah and Leah were 6 years old and about to finish up their year in kindergarten. Lucas was 20 months old, and we were looking forward to celebrating his 2nd birthday that coming July.

But in the blink of an eye, she was gone.

It happened so fast. It was a Tuesday. I had just finished eating lunch at home. The girls were at school, totally unaware, and Lucas was taking his afternoon nap when I got the dreaded call. Mercifully, my friend Nikki came immediately and picked Lucas up for me. A short while later, I was sitting in shock on my parents' couch surrounded by Mike on one side and my dad on the other. They were pretty much propping me up. Within a few hours of her death we were talking to the funeral home directors. I could barely answer their questions and have vague memories of that meeting other than I know it happened. I can still see the two very nice men in their dark suits sitting like shadows across the room. When they left, I remember walking out to the back patio with Mike following close behind. I sat there sobbing into his chest as it was quickly approaching the time to go pick up the girls after school.

What were we going to say?  How were we going to explain this?

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. They are going forget her. My kids are going to forget their grandmother.

It may not happen right away. But eventually my mom will be a fuzzy memory floating around in the deep recesses of their brains. I knew Lucas would never remember her. He was simply too young. But my girls saw my mom practically every day. They knew the sound of her voice. The way she squinted her eyes when she laughed. The comforting feel of her hugs. But Hannah and Leah were six--their whole lives were wide open before them ready to fill with new experiences that would push those happy memories of my mom aside.

I was eight when my grandfather passed away. I can definitely remember him today as I type this post at 37 years of age. But the details of my grandfather are definitely blurred. My memories of him spotty at best, and I saw him often and loved him dearly. If that's how I remember him and he died when I was eight, how on earth will my girls remember their grandmother!?

This is a fear that grips me. And an even darker fear is that I will someday forget. I know I won't forget her totally, that is impossible. But sometimes I try to remember the way her voice sounded or the way it felt to hold her hand, and I panic as the memory doesn't form right away.

My mom and Lucas
Robbers Cave State Park
July 2010

So....what do we do? I truly believe that memories need context. Without putting them into a specific time and place, they do start to fade a bit. And that means, we TALK. We talk about her a lot. We tell our kids stories. We look at pictures. I tell about the time we were walking along the beach in Galveston and my mom stepped on a dead jellyfish. How she hopped around because it stung her foot and my dad carried her to a medic station. I explain how Grandma used to take care of me when I was sick--even as an adult. She would scratch my back and cover me with an afghan and make me feel so much better. I tell my kids about how I got lost from my mom when I was five years old and we were shopping at Hobby Lobby. I can remember how relieved I was to see her face when the clerk helped me find her. Or how she and I tried and tried to beat my dad at Boggle, but we just never could. And how she always made blueberry walnut cake with lemon filling for my birthday even though it is a bit labor intense. I tell about the way she read children's books with enthusiasm and how the first thing she did after she woke up from open heart surgery was motion for me to come hold her hand. I explain that her favorite color was pale pink and her favorite book was To Kill a Mockingbird. The kids find me sniffing the Downy bottle, and I tell them that's how my mom smelled to me. I talk about how she always drank hot tea at breakfast and fed the cats bacon pieces under the table. And how the sound of her slippers swishing across the tile kitchen floor woke me up on Saturday mornings.
My mom and Hannah
At Old Germany Restaurant celebrating Grandma's birthday
October 2009

We talk and we talk and we talk. We add details to our conversations to give context to those memories. My kids ask questions about her and I always stop to answer them. We hang photos of her so that her face will never fade from our memories. We do this so that Hannah and Leah and Lucas will never truly forget.
Grandma and Leah


And I know I never will either.

Mom and me
Tuscan countryside
Italy, 2002

3 comments:

Maria Rose said...

Touching and beautiful!

Jamie said...

So beautiful. Your mom would love that you do this. I will remember to do this for my kids too.

Sarah Purdy said...

Beautiful - thank you for sharing this.