Updated: Jan 2
If I might have a moment of personal privilege, please. A moment to speak of the week at Sandhill in terms that don’t include a description of how the colors of the fallen leaves change when they are flattened by the rain or how the wind kicks up those leaves and slaps them against the house and the car and the garbage can like window decals. A moment to speak of a pain so sharp and a hurt so deep that the best metaphor in the world can not reach it.
At 4:30 a.m. on Monday, November 30, the moon was full. At that precise moment the moon was fully illuminated for the first time in 28 days.
I have a thing about the full moon. I’ve written about it over and over, called it a fingernail and a scythe and an apostrophe. Described it as a pumpkin-colored ball, a cream-colored poker chip, a poaching egg. I like to walk around in the dark with nothing but the full moon to light my way and when I know the full moon is near, I leave the blinds to my bedroom window open so that the light will keep me company in the night. I remember a lot of full moons, but I will never forget this one, the one at 4:30 a.m. on Monday, November 30, because as best we can tell, it was right about then that my mother died.
My mother died.
I have practiced saying the word, avoiding the euphemism in the many telephone calls I have received, the texts to which I have replied, the conversations in which I have engaged because to pretend otherwise denies her the dignity she deserves. She did not pass away, morph into some wisp and float into the ether. She died. She died when, as a result of Alzheimer’s disease, she could no longer walk or speak or, ultimately, breathe.
Many years ago when my grandmother, my mother’s mother died, I discovered a song that Carly Simon had written after the death of her own mother. I wept as I heard it, imagining how Mama must be feeling and feeling safe in knowing that it would be a long, long time before that moment came for me.
And now it is here.
I spent hours on Monday going through photos, some of which I’d never seen, including photos of Mama and Daddy when they were dating. I searched their faces for the adults, the parents they became and, though I found resemblances – her curly hair, his dark eyes –- , the teenagers in the photos carried an impishness, a naivete, a daring that, by the time I learned to look at them as people, had been softened by responsibility and time.
There were photos of Mama holding me, a newborn all scrunched and swaddled, my fists punching at the air as though I had some autonomy, as though I was not dependent upon her for everything. Photos of her holding other babies – my brother, his children, his children’s children – and always there was nothing but delight on her face.
It was those photos – the impishness of the teenager, the delight of the mother – that caught my grief and held it. Held it like a magnet because it had been so long since I had seen that Mama, so long since her eyes danced, her mouth smiled. So long since she’d been Mama.
Sitting at my desk, the light of the full moon shrouded only slightly by clouds, I remember the Carly Simon song, the song that ends with the words: “I'll wait no more for you like a daughter. That part of our life together is over. But I will wait for you, forever ... like a river.”
Like a river that flows from its source to sea.