|Mom and me, August 1960|
Ninety years, four months, fifteen days.
That was my mother's allotted time on this earth.
Fifty two years, five months, seven days.
That was how long we had together.
And now... one week apart.
(And yes we have spent many, many days, months, years, separated in this time, sometimes by continents, sometimes by oceans, sometimes just by emotions - adolescence, anyone? - and yet... and yet... we were always, somehow, still THERE with each other, connected by that invisible, permanent, virtual umbilicus that binds mother to child; infinitely expandable, invincibly endurable.)
I remember the first time I truly contemplated the impact of my parents' demise. I was relatively young, still - my late twenties. No husband, no kids, a very different life.
I was in the midst of many exciting happenings - though for the life of me now I couldn't tell you what they all were. I dimly recall I was deep into rehearsing a play (as assistant director and stage manager) and being on my way home from a rehearsal up on the Columbia campus.
I was driving, flying down Riverside Drive and wanting to call and tell my folks about how well things were going, about plans that were afoot. And I couldn't.
They were traveling at the time, far, far away on the greatest adventure they had ever undertaken. They were in Bali, in a little village, inland, upland - Ubud I believe it was called. And there was no way to phone. I knew the name of the guest house they were staying at, and of the proprietor, but this would do me no good.
There was ONE telephone in the whole town, in the "telephone house" and it was only to be used in case of dire emergency, which this was not. And it was only available in the daytime hours between ten and six, which, with the fourteen hour time difference, this most certainly was not, either.
My parents had never been so completely inaccessible to me and for so long (it was nearly a month's trip) and I felt frustrated by my inability to speak with them.
And then my stomach dropped and I started to cry. Because this thought rang out in my head: "This is what it will be like when they are dead. Only it won't just be for a few weeks, it will be forever."
And as the feelings washed over me, I sobbed and sobbed, thankfully alone in my car, then pulled myself together, feeling grateful for the temporary nature of our separation.
And yes, we had many more years together, my parents and I.
And yes, by the end it was their diminished capacity for cognition that was keeping me from sharing all the ups and down of my life with them; the strong, care-taking parents of my twenties so long gone as to be nearly recognizable.
But still, through it all, we were connected; their love of me a constant, never-questioned core.
And now the umbilicus is sundered, existing only as a phantom limb, aching in spite of its absence.
And I can visit with my mother (and father) only in memory.
So perhaps, though it is 4AM and I will need to be up in two hours to care for my own children, I should try, once again, hopefully successfully this time, to sleep.