i climb those rickety attic stairs everytime i visit you. the attic holds treasures. they multiply each time i leave, always throwing surprises at me each time i go digging around in there.
what i found was priceless to me. dad’s slide film. all of it, perfectly preserved. hundreds and hundreds of them spanning 30 years of photography. and this… this was the very first slide i pulled out. i held it up to the light and it literally made me cry. it was you, mom. as seen through dad’s eyes. an image i had never seen before in my life. it is the most beautiful portrait. and behind it i learned so much about both of you. that itself, the learning and seeing, was such a gift to me.
dad saw me holding the old metal treasure box. he knew what it was. it was his afterall. he wasn’t sure he wanted to give me access to his images, all the places he’d been, all that he’d seen, the world of people he loved.
i showed him this image. the portrait he took of you in the early seventies just before i was born. and he, being a man of few words, said nothing to my many questions. he said nothing other than, “well, now we know where you get your love of photography from.”
hey mom, i draft letters to you while i do the dishes. my son is going to grow up thinking it’s mandatory to cry while steam fills the sink. but he’s also going to grow up knowing that the kitchen fills with music and we hold each other through sadness.
hey mom, today i held him in my arms as he sobbed for 40 minutes and it reminded me of when he was newly born. his head on my shoulder, sobs and tears and sounds unfamiliar. and all that mattered to him were my arms around him. embracing him while he cried.
hey mom, i miss you. i wish that i could talk to you. you know, really talk. like we used to. not about groceries or calendar dates. you know, like we used to talk about life and sunshine and laughter, mothering and parenting and being so similiar in so many ways.
hey mom, today i said outloud for the first time “my mom is dyng” and i long for a conversation wtih you… but that time is gone. there’s nothing there but disconnect. the time for mother daughter talks is gone, and i dont’ know when it left, and i wasn’t prepared to say goodbye to that part of our relationship so soon. it’s strange to still see you, your body standing before me, and me unable to access you as i once did. it’s heartbreaking. i’m your baby. your little girl. you’re my mommy still even though our roles are shifting.
hey mom, this is why i cry and draft letters to you while i clean. this is also why i talk to your friends. i gather them to me like the mothers they are. they have known me my whole life. they miss you too. but i am comforted that we have each other, all of us, to guide us through this grief. for this is what it is, we are grieving the loss of you. the slipping away from us even as you stand next to us.
hey mom, they tell me they are proud of me. every single one of them say it. maybe they know i need to hear it. they know you are unable to witness me flying and soaring in this place i’ve come to be. they tell me that you would be proud of me too. it sounds strange because you are not dead, although sometimes how we speak you’d think otherwise.
hey mom, i’m worried about you. i’m worried about us losing you. about what it will do to us. you were the glue that held us together. i don’t know if i can fill your shoes. your friends tell me they admire my strength but i want to pull back the curtain and weep like a child. i just want my mommy like all those times i got lost in sears. my childhood nightmares of losing my mother are becoming reality. this is real now. i’m not a kid so i’m expected to behave like i’m strong when all i want to do is curl up in your lap and have you stroke my hair.
hey mom, my son calls me wonder woman. and he really believes that i am. and i don’t want to break his heart and tell him otherwise.
hey mom, i wish you could watch him grow up. he’s going to be amazing.
hey mom, you’d be proud of him.