16 Years Without Mom

This is not a maudlin blog. It’s no laborious tour through conflicting emotions and a plea for online sympathy. This is a simple reflection about my mother, about whom I’ve not written in too long. I know that personal pieces like this expose some of my inner thoughts to people who don’t deserve them, but sometimes I just can’t care about that.

My beautiful picture
This was before Star Wars even came out the first time.

Truth be told, simply participating in online culture exposes feelings and thoughts to people who don’t deserve them. I’m readjusting to the idea of being comfortable with that (hence why the blog came back online). Choosing to podcast has loaned my voice to plenty of people who don’t know me, but believe in some way they are owed participation in my life; but that’s a blog for another time.

Ironically enough, it reminds me of what my mother always said: don’t ever write down what you’re not ready for the world to know on the front page of the paper. So, I guess writing something about my mom is all right.

16 Years

16 years is a long time. The country has been to war twice. George Lucas left filmmaking. I’m married with three kids and a mortgage.

16 years is a lifetime.I quit smoking. My dad died several years ago. I’ve made good friends, in ways I couldn’t foretell.

16 years fades your memory. I used to look for signs of her daily, now I find moments by chance. Her voice is barely a whisper now, and I have to think hard to remember her laugh. Sometimes I happen across a picture, and things come rushing back. I can remember how much she wanted holidays to be special.

My two oldest hear stories I relate about her, but those are getting foggy now. I’ll be lucky if the third hears them all.

tom-and-sheila-mills-easter-1984
To be honest, we’re lucky she wasn’t blinking. She was always blinking in pictures.

I’m being left with sense memories and impressions as the distance grows, and the snippets are becoming more pronounced and fewer in number. I’d still give up a limb simply to stand in her presence once more.

There’s something that dies inside you after you’ve been missing a parent for awhile. It’s hard to explain. There’s an edge to your empathy that gets blunted. I’m so used to shunting my way around the fresh hurt that comes up when I think about her – or my dad – that it becomes a reflex.

When someone starts relating a story that might take me down that road, I just pull off on a side road and run parallel until we get to the end. I’m listening, but I won’t let myself feel.

Maybe that’s what’s hurting my recollections. I don’t know.

But There’s Some Light

Maybe in other ways it helps, though. I’d like to think that my mother’s absence actually forced me to make a decision to be more open about things with the kids. I want them to know what her hand was in shaping the choices I make for what’s important to me as a parent, the value of openness to expressing love, and even discipline.

There’s the old adage that so long as you think and speak of someone, they’re not really dead.

So I’ll write these blogs every so often, and I’ll sometimes tell the same stories, because I want her to stick around. And I’ll cry sometimes and I’ll want to give my kids big hugs for reasons that puzzle them.

At the end of it all, it’s the only way I know how to honor her.

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3 thoughts on “16 Years Without Mom

  1. Dude, you keep remembering her. It’s honoring and redeeming. I lost my Mom in September of 2002. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about those Summer Tuesday matinees, or going to the lake to swim. Or the gentle guidance when I didn’t know what to do. Moms are awesome, and Awesome Moms are the best!

  2. I wish I could be sitting face-to-face with you to share my sincere appreciation for this blog post. Beautiful. KEEP telling your girls those stories, John, especially your youngest. In a world like we live in today … it’s so important for little ones to understand the GOODNESS from which they came.
    Thanks for your vulnerability in writing this and sharing this …. certainly we don’t deserve the view … but it sure is lovely.

  3. Every year since we’ve met I’ve always read your posts about your mom with a mix of sadness and happiness. Sad for you and her, but also oddly sad in anticipation of losing my own mom someday (which I like to believe this is somehow preparing me for). The outcome of the latter is I take a moment to call mom and appreciate her. So – for the little that it’s worth, your posts inspire action.

    They also make me happy because you do remember her, even though the details are fading. There’s something calming about that.

    Lastly – this year I read this as a mother myself. (!) I find myself reflecting on how my daughter may remember (or not) details about me someday. I hope she will have many happy memories of me and our lives together, however long they intersect. And I am reminded to teach her about Christmas hay and the ERA. 😉

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