Friday, January 25, 2013

Ninety years, four months, fifteen days

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.

And dreams.

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.


  1. That moment you realize that you are now part of that older generation, because the safety net you have of your parents is gone..............

    It's hard to deal with, but time does help.
    The sadness lingers on, but you will remember good times

  2. That was a beautiful piece. I feel like I carry my dad with me in my heart now. Hugs to you!

  3. I'm sorry, Varda. I haven't been through this yet. I don't think any person ever gets through the death of their parents easily. I am so glad you got so many years with her, though.

  4. Varda, my brother and I visited my mother's grave recently. It's been 16 years since she died at 67, alone in her apartment, and I still miss her so. Losing a mother is a very hard thing. We were in shock; we didn't see it coming though in hindsight there were signs but she hid a lot and my brothers and I, like so many grown children, are scattered across the country. I've had to work to get past the guilt. I won't lie: It's going to hurt like hell, and you're going to fall apart. But the ache does start to lessen. Try to focus on all the wonderful time you had together, and what an amazing daughter you were to her. Many children who live near their parents don't do what you did for her, made all more incredible given what you had to juggle at home. She will be with you always. xo

  5. I know it doesn't always make much difference, these words from people you don't know in person. But I feel it so strongly, and I want to tell you, you are loved. I believe you can take each breath you need to take today. I believe you can get through faking the motions of life, even though your heart is so heavy and broken. And then, when you must, just stop. The days will keep coming, the grief may be like the tide, and sooner or later the seed of sorrow will split and be one more bloom in your fuller life. My heart is with you!

  6. So much beauty and honor pouring out of you, Varda. I'm grateful for the privilege of reading it --

  7. What a beautiful post! I am so sorry for your loss!

  8. Oh, Varda. I'm so, so sorry.

  9. Varda, there is something about your words that is staying with me lately.
    You know that I'm with you in my heart...

    and you are reminding me of how much I love my mom , how much I want to drink in moments with her. Thank you for that, for giving me the gift of clarity in this moment.

    our moms, our umbilical knots, our first and most important connection.

    love to you.

  10. I miss my Mum and Dad so much that I feel as though I've cut off a limb rather than an umbilical chord, and I'm crying again, but at least I know it's not just me xx

  11. I am inspired and encouraged by the wonderful relationship you had with your parents. Thank you for sharing with us. Hugs, Jamie

  12. i'm so sorry for your loss. you've summed up what it's like to lose a parent so well. my dad passed while i was in college. i wish you feelings of peace.

  13. I envy the depth of love you have for your parents. No one knows for sure what happens when we die, but I like to think that they're happily catching up, talking about you and your boy-folk. I hope your grief gets a little easier to bear each day, and that you get comfort every where you turn.

    If you're in the mood for hot chocolate from Shake Shack let me know!! And I'd love to sit and listen to you reminisce about your mom, or just sit with you, any time.

  14. I'm with you, Varda.

    We are walking the same path.

    I work and work until I feel my eyes can't stay open any more, then I pass out--not fall asleep, and am grateful for any 2 or 3 hr shift I get.

    It's sleep, just sleep--but we need it to keep going.

  15. I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm glad you had your mother for so many years. I am blessed to still have mine, even as she slips away a little more each day. You had a special relationship with yours like I do mine. Since I don't have children, she has now become my child and my reason for living. God bless you, Varda as you deal with your grief and the challenge of every day life. As my mom always said to me (a chronic insomniac), "If you can't sleep, just rest". I wish you plenty of both as well as peace.

  16. Again, Varda, I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm here to say thank you. I've been reading your posts since your mom passed and with each I've felt myself closer to calling my own mother. A purposeless call. A random call to say hello. Those don't happen. It's been months. I never know why it occurs, why it continues, why I let it. But your words? Your words at least make me pick up the phone and then it doesn't seem so purposeless after all.

  17. I am so sorry for your loss. As long as our moms are living, we feel safe. It is a big change to have to live with that loss.

  18. Oh Varda. I am so sorry. The depth of love for your parents. They know. They still know and feel you. I love you. xo


I am so sorry to have to turn word verification back on, but the spam-bots have found me - yikes!