Today is Mother’s Day. I have a mother, and I will be calling her, don’t you worry. Since I am also a mother myself, I will be celebrating the way I used to dream about when my teenagers were mere ankle-biters:
A day to myself.
Last year, as I recall, it was hard to get out of the house. What did I really want for myself? I finally just got dressed and went to Greenwood for a good wander. I bought myself a dress. I bought myself lunch. I think I went to a movie.
And I came home to a clean house and a hot dinner, prepared by my loving children and the mofo who has made me his MILF.
Today I have a tough choice to make: Do I use my time to attend a memorial service or not? This brings up the questions I’ve been asking since I’ve been an adult with people around me dying.
I was never dragged to any memorials as a kid. Those relatives who died were far away, and I don’t recall any friends dying until middle school. Even then, I didn’t go, whether I knew the service was happening or not, and one of those I regret missing mostly because I was talked out of it by an opinionated classmate.
Would I have wanted to go anyway? I don’t know. These days, I allow myself to decide whether I want to go or no, and then I think a lot about what is behind the desire. Is it a sense of community obligation? Of doing honor to the dead? Of showing up for the living who could use my love? Of having a time and place to mourn “properly,” that is, in a contained, meaningful ritual?
There’s little enough ritual in my life. L’s diploma presentation this week, he and I agreed, was a good ritual, meaningful, powerful, enjoyable. As a non-churchgoer, I treasure any gathering that marks a transition.
In this case, I’m not linked into a community; the friend who died meant a lot to me, and I expressed what I could in his lifetime, and I don’t have much connection to his family. I’ve shared meals with him and his wife, but when I showed up, invited at the last minute, at his next-to-last birthday party, I felt out of place amongst the friends he’d had for 40 years who were grieving his slow loss due to ALS. They had known him young and they planned on him getting old and never had enough of him.
Is it possible to have enough of someone? Yes, it is. In college, a woman I thought of as a friend politely terminated our friendship over tea, making it clear that I liked her more than she liked me and she thought of me as more of a friend of a friend than her own. Six months later, she died in a plane crash, and I thought, “That is sad, and that is that, and we had our time, and it was done before she was, and now she is done too.”
As someone who is living so many private thoughts in public, I still feel free to keep some things to myself. No conclusion on where I’ll end up today, or how I’ll mourn, or where or with whom or whether. I know enough about grief to know it will happen to me in waves, whenever it will, and I can’t control it.
But I know enough to leave the house.