Underslept, rarely showered, breaking out. My face a blotchy patchwork of red and too pale. A total mess, ten days on now.
Wait, it's eleven. Soon it will be two weeks. Soon it will be the memorial service come upon us.
And I have a eulogy to write. Photos to dig up.
Mom's ashes to collect. (I got the call today, but I couldn't; I just... couldn't. Not yet. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe if Dan comes with me.)
I have so much to do; so much todotodotodotodoooooo.
And I want to do absolutely nothing.
To stand still, frozen, like a winter tree, just being for a moment; no leaves, no flowers, no pesky photons to synthesize from. Just standing; my roots dug in, holding me up. Life still flowing at my core, but you wouldn't know it from looking at me.
I flip, like a flopping, water starved fish on deck, back and forth back and forth: I want to be left alone / I have to be with people. From minute to minute I never know what I'll need.
I go see friends then run away and hide in the bathroom. I banish everyone from the house, then frantically call my cousins to talk.
When my father died, I had to take care of my mother, to be there for her. I had her to mourn with; I had Bruce and Lois, my father's other children from his first marriage, by my side, making all these terrible arrangements together.
But I am my mother's only child, and she is the second parent gone. So there is no one else. Just me. I am the sole surviving member of the nuclear family of my birth.
(And yes, there is the family I chose, the family I made, and I thank the heavens every day for their existence. But it's still not the same.)
I feel greedy and selfish taking time away from my family to mourn, from my children who need me as much today as they did two weeks ago. And yet even here I am hardly here, translucent, worn thin as the cotton of my mother's ancient favorite nightgown.
(More sad tasks on my list: drive out to Long Island to retrieve her boxed-up final belongings from the nursing home. And then what do I do with her teeth? Her hearing aid? I can neither throw them into the trash nor keep them.)
I took her glasses from her face in the hospital ER, promised to give them back when she was up to the task of reading again. I carry them around still in my pocketbook, come upon them when fishing for change and keys.
I put them on though they blur my vision, not cure it.
I want to see through her eyes; I want to see her clearly.
I want the sadness of the last, broken, lonely months of her life to wash away in all my tears. I want to remember the woman who loved birds and cats and babies and champagne and modern art and handmade things and the Chrysler Building in all its art deco glory. The woman who reveled in the crystalline beauty of the natural world.
The woman who loved ME so deeply, so fiercely, so freely; who loved me as only a mother can love a child.
I whisper in my children's ears (now, mostly while they are asleep): "I will always be your mother, and I will always love you."
She taught me to love like that, my one and only mother.
Me, her one and only child.