Monday, June 28, 2010

How Do You Keep the Memory Alive?

Today happens to be my mother’s birthday, or should I say used to be? The past eight years have gone by without her, but my thoughts still turn to her on this day.

A few weeks ago I was putting Henry, the youngest, to bed and our conversation turned to my mother, his grandmother. I wish I could recall the circumstances and conversation a little better. I even took notes because I knew I would want to write about this. Unfortunatley, they are far too abbreviated to make much sense.

Be his grandmother
Choc chip pancakes
Did sam and dan know her?
Thinking it’s Nonna
Picture? Will you show me tomorrow?

He was curious. Who were these people called grandmother? He’s never known either of them – they both departed this world before he made his entrance. I found in trying answer his questions, there was very little to say and I struggled.

So from the notes, let’s see – “be his grandmother” I have no idea what that means. The chocolate chip pancakes reference is easy. My mom was the best cook ever. Sure, everyone says that about their own mother’s food. (Actually, maybe not everyone because I know my dad had no affinity for his own mother’s chow.) But in all seriousness, my mother excelled at cooking. It was her thing, especially baking. She taught me everything I know and it has proved a valuable skill with Danny’s celiac disease. One thing that she always did was make pancakes. They were easy and they were loved and they were always chocolate chip and awesome. I’m happy to say that my kids are the next generation in this tradition. Pancakes on the weekends – and chocolate chip if you so desire.

Sam and Dan did know her, but all too briefly. Danny was barely three when she died. Sam was six. Sam’s comment when my mom died – “Mom, everyone has to die.” Matter of fact. Unemotional. Like it was just part of life. I remember that comment and feeling betrayed. How could he not feel the hurt and sadness? Maybe in answer to Henry’s question, the answer should have been that they didn’t know her. Or maybe they were just too young.

There was one point in the conversation where Henry got confused. A few years ago my grandmother spent a few weeks at our house. Nonna was unable to fend for herself and was living up at my Uncle’s house in Sonora, but he was going on a trip or something and she couldn’t stay alone so she stayed with us. While it’s been a few years since then, Henry still remembers her. I think his memory of her is fresh from attending her burial late last summer. But no Henry, that’s not your grandmother – that’s your great grandmother.

And then Henry asked if we have any pictures, he wanted to see one. I said no problem…we have pictures out in the living room. Two to be exact from two weeks before her death. And the next morning, as soon as his eyes opened, he crawled out of bed and immediately asked to see the pictures. And I showed him.

Since then there have been no more questions. But it got me thinking. How much do I talk about my mom? Not much if at all, really. Why not? Well, let’s see, it’s still painful. It’s clear to me that I’ve become an expert at pushing all those sad feelings down. It’s been eight years and I can now talk without spontaneously crying, but it still hurts. What hurts most is that she’s gone. There’s now an empty hole – a part of my life has been extracted, ripped out. It simply doesn’t exist anymore. What’s there to say? With the suppression of all those sad feelings, it looks like I’ve inadvertently also suppressed everything!

But, I do want to keep my mom’s memory alive. I know she would want that too. I notice as time has passed by, I seem to be remembering less. Memories are fading. Maybe that’s how I control my emotions on the whole thing. But I think I don’t want to be here. I want to move to a place where I can share. What do I want to pass along to my kids? Will it really have any true meaning to them? Do I want to drag out the photo albums (none of which I have by the way)? Do I just bring it up in conversation? Family anecdotes? Stories of the past? I don’t know. But I think I need to start talking about it, or it won’t happen – that I do know.
blog comments powered by Disqus