All Souls’ Day: Remembering My Mother

She’s been gone six months and eleven days. It seems like forever. It feels like she was never here, that I was never buried in caregiving, that she was never driving me to the brink. That I didn’t lie in my bed at night crying, promising myself that this was not my forever and not believing it.

But I’m revising my memoir again, attempting to reduce it by 40,000 words before I pay an editor to read the rest of them, and I remember. She was here. She was driving me to the brink. And I miss her.


Yesterday I finally cleaned out the rest of her dresser drawers in preparation for giving away the bedroom furniture she and my father got when I was in junior high or maybe before that. That’s when I got the dresser they bought used when they started living married, three years after the wedding when my father returned from the war; but maybe it had been stashed in the basement until I got my own bedroom. I still have that dresser and I want to use it again.

My mother was quite the collector of jewelry, very little of which I remember her wearing. Some pieces still have the price tag attached. Some that people, including me, made for her. Some of it may be her mother’s. Sometime, while she could still see and write, perhaps with the help of her favorite paid companion, she went through it all and wrote notes on many pieces, so my sisters and I would know its origins. She never got rid of any of it.

I didn’t know she had a “love” of horses (or what it means in quotation marks). I think there is much I didn’t know about her. And I wish I had known the questions to ask.

Along with dozens of scarves and piles of my father’s plain white handkerchiefs, it fills the four dresser drawers I crammed it in when I cleaned out the other seven drawers for my own use. I touch each piece, most still in original boxes, as I put them in bigger boxes.

This is what I miss: her being young and acquiring this jewelry. When she went to church and concerts and her favorite restaurants and traveled with my father. When she wore necklaces around her neck rather than her dark glasses to cover her regular glasses outside; instead of her hearing aid remote; rather than the pendant to call for an aide to help her in the bathroom.

This is what bring tears: when my father bought jewelry for his love and sent it across the ocean to her, longing to be there himself.

This piece of jewelry was in the box with this note, but since she is wearing it in the photo above–taken, I believe, before he went overseas–it does not go with the note. Unless the story I thought I knew is inaccurate. I wish I could clarify it with her. I wish she would have remembered if I had asked.

This is the mother I miss: the one who every year at Christmas wore the clip-on holly leaf earrings I made in fourth grade art until she lost one, or it broke. Insisting she loved them, until I finally understood one year that it was me she loved.

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I put the two stuffed boxes in the basement, then go back and get out her multi-strand pearl necklace. I don’t know if the pearls are even real, and I can’t picture myself wearing them. I just need her close by.

“…To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.”      —Mary Oliver



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