Yesterday would have been my mother’s 100th birthday. Since last winter, I had been planning what we would do to celebrate it, trying to figure out what my mom would really like to do most to commemorate this remarkable accomplishment. How amazing to have witnessed all the changes in our world for so many decades and be able to tell young people about things that they never would read in the history books.
But my mother did not live to be here with us on the big day. She died exactly one month before it. So, instead of eagerly looking forward to August 17th, I’ve been dreading it.
We made the decision to celebrate yesterday with our daughter in a way that my mom would have enjoyed if she had been with us. One of my mother’s best friends, who shares the same birthday and was turning 90 yesterday, unexpectedly sent me a check and asked me to use it for something that my mom would have liked to do with it. So, we loaded the dog in the car and drove up to the college where my daughter is in “boot camp” for freshmen, and picked up our “precious girl” (as my mom always called her).
In a charming country town nearby, I found a restaurant in an old coach house that was started by a World War II fighter pilot after he returned home in 1948, the year my mom arrived in this country. It was full of horsey stuff, including a tack room. My strong horse spirit guides sent me to just the right place. Yesterday was a gorgeous blue sky summer day, the food was great, we told funny stories about Nana and listened to my daughter happily describe her new friends and professors. There is no doubt that the “precious girl” is having the time of her life in her new school. I almost thought I should ask for another chair to be placed at the table because I felt so vividly that my mother was sitting between me and my child.
After we dropped the happy camper off, we head over a few miles east to one of my best, closest friends from the blogging community to visit her farm and her horses. We wandered through the serene and fabulous green fields and her elegant barn, stopping to give treats to one of her big, contented geldings. It was very relaxing, and I felt like my mom was right there with us, enjoying the scenery and the warm friendship.
I called my mom’s best friend when we got home to wish her a happy birthday and tell her what a lovely time we had with her gift, celebrating my mom. She said that she had lost two of her best friends, my mom and her friend Helen, this year, but that Helen’s son and I had both called her on her birthday, and it meant so much to know that the friendship had been handed down to continue to be with her.
Before I went to bed, I thought about how fortunate it was that my mom and my dad were no longer trapped in those falling apart human bodies that had caused them so much fear and pain in their last years. I can imagine so clearly that they are together now, proudly watching me live my life and observe my daughter blossoming into a confident young woman.
I realized that the process of grief for me in the past month, that occurs as I miss my mom with these small, unexpected stabs of pain and randomly start to cry or lose track of what I am doing or feel frustrated for no good reason, is actually familiar to me. I went through exactly the same emotions when I lost my dad. I went adrift in L.A. for many months before I adjusted to not being able to pick up the phone and call him.
I don’t know how long it will take this time because there are no emotional deadlines. I do know that it would be a big mistake to try to brush it off and plow ahead, believing that only one month is long enough and I must get back to my regularly scheduled programming. It takes as long as it takes, and so be it.