It’s been over six months since my mother died. The reality of it still hasn’t sunk in. We’ve foregone getting a Christmas tree this year, decorating the house instead with little reminders of her presence. We built her a memorial library, converting her last living quarters into a plush reading room. She was a writer and an editor of books so this somehow seemed fitting.
Mom was never a “touchy-feely” kind of person. She wasn’t one for hugs until she had grandchildren and then she held them for long periods in her arms. Her grandchildren softened her in a way her own children couldn’t.
As a child, I always sensed I was “in the way,” an impediment to her doing what she really wanted to do which was write. She preferred the solitude of her own room to the hubbub of children and family. I used to take that as rejection and sought out nurturing surrogate mothers wherever I went, especially in the cult.
In this holiday season, I sense her physical absence more acutely than ever. Even while she was slipping mentally (she had Alzheimer’s), I still looked forward to the times when she would reach out for me and hold me in her arms, tell me she loved me as she never had when I was young. She was more affectionate as an elderly person with dementia than she ever was as a young intellectual and career woman.
Still, she was fiercely loyal to her family and fought for us whenever we needed her. She stayed with her alcoholic husband and saw him through his illness to sobriety. She rescued me from a bad marriage and a destructive cult. She came out of hiding like a mother bear coming out of her cave to fight for her young. She wasn’t always present but she was “there.”
In a way now, she is still here. As I sit by the fire in the library we made for her, I am more assured of her presence and love than I ever was when she was alive. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps spirit is more palpable than blood. This Christmas, it is enough for me to feel it. That’s all I ever wanted in the first place.