Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Movie day!

I remembered that I had a readmission ticket to use before year's end. What to watch?! I posted my quandary to Facebook and the overwhelming response went in favor of "True Grit." Which I watched (apparently the assigned seating is meaningless). And enjoyed!

(Facebook posting or no, I would've seen it anyway. Love me a good western, gimme that twang!)

Monday, December 27, 2010

100 Days

Yesterday marked 100 days since my mom's death. We went to the cemetery as usual and then to the temple, as we'd done up until 49 days. This time we stayed afterwards for a short ceremony to officially end wearing traditional mourning robes. I had to remind myself that that didn't mean I was no longer remembering my mom; I got a bit teary-eyed, but it was okay.

The extended family and friends gathered at my dad's and were all there by the time we arrived. I never have to introduce myself: my mom's college friends recognize her in my face. They say that seeing me takes them back; then they all sigh and say, a bit wistfully, "We're all old now." I was grateful to see everyone, even though I don't know everyone's name. It's enough -- more than enough -- that they came because they knew and loved my mom. I gave them all big hugs.

[missing mom]

I doodled this the other day, kinda outta nowhere, and posted to P365. My BFF commented, "I miss your mom, too." It makes me tear up just to write that. I am grateful all over again that so many people knew my mom and share, in their own way, this grief.

So what now?

One day at a time. Starting slowly. Maybe I'll paint my toenails red; just like she used to.


As much as I would like to be one of those people who goes through their bag and mail each day, who puts their clothes away immediately, and who makes their bed each morning, I must confess that I'm simply not that neat.  Rather, things tend to pile up.  So weekends are for cleaning.  Which is especially nice since Monday is garbage collection day.

Part of each weekend clean has been continuing to pare down my belongings (I think it's great that these days, on the blogosphere at least, it's called "editing" or "curating" -- it allows every Plain Jane to become a little bit fabulous, don't you think?).  I even started putting clothes that I really like in the give/sell/donate pile, simply because I don't need so much!

Well, I thought I was doing a good job on cleaning (or "exfoliating," as Jess calls it; during the summer I started her Summer Slim Down and decided to take it into autumn).  But then my brother and I started going through my mom's stuff last month.  I sorted clothes and toiletries; he did shoes and some paperwork.  And I ended up bringing two armfuls of clothes home for myself! 

I picked out one or two of her old school blouses, a couple sweaters, and -- ironically -- some pieces I'd given to her back in the day.  The gems, though, are her beautiful, hand-sewn traditional ao dai.  Some of them are from when she was still single, so they're precious as my-mom-before-she-became-my-mom mementos.  The fabrics are something else, too.  Lovely silks and brocades.  I've always loved the one with multi-color flowers on blue [middle], which I never saw my mom wear, and the teal brocade with spider mums [second from bottom], which is such a unique color and thick and rich and great for winter.  The ao dai take up a lot of closet real estate, and I have to squeeze into some of them a bit, but I'm sure they can be altered.  It feels nice to have her clothes so seamlessly integrated among my own.

[ao dai]

Living simply often means cutting out the sentimentality that makes us keep what we don't need, but I'm allowing myself to hang on.  Perhaps, as time passes, I won't feel the need to keep them any longer.  And at that time, it'll be okay to let go.  Besides, I'm sure I can find something else in my closet to let go... like my old high school prom dress!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Return to reading

My love for books has taken a back seat over the past few years, in favor of more hands-on activities like knitting, gardening, and cooking (and nephewsitting!  The Goo eats things).  These days, however, I migrate back to the familiarity of words printed on paper, that comfortable feeling of flipping pages.

I have randomly come across helpful articles. Sitting in the doctor's office I spied an issue of the New Yorker, in which there was an article on Roland Barthes' journal entries as he mourned the loss of his mother. Also -- and again, randomly, as it's not my habit to read magazines -- in an issue of Real Simple magazine I came across a description of The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion's memoir of the year she lost her husband.

Over and above my own findings, I have friends who've had parents pass away.  They have rallied to my side through email, text, phone calls, handwritten cards, and even books and music.



Jessica, who lost her dad a couple years ago, sent me When the Heart Waits and A Grace Disguised.  I am not quite ready for the former (having picked it up and not been able to get through the introduction) but am finding the latter a treasure.  I'm reading it slowly, red pencil in hand, because there's so much goodness to it.  Even in things I don't think I need.  For example, I skipped over the part on forgiveness because I think of myself as a forgiving person and because I just didn't think it applied to me.  But the self-imposed guilt of not reading the whole book got to me and I went back to read the three or four pages.  It wasn't just that I saw myself reflected in Sittster's description of an unforgiving person, but he had good advice about how to become a forgiving person. There are things in my heart, attitude, and actions that I can do.  So I will try.

I am totally open to recommendations, too, so don't be shy!  It feels good to be in the company of good books.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ironically grateful

Thanksgiving was the first day since my mom's passing during which I had an extended time to myself. I decided to bask in it and just do little things: cleaning house, light weeding, and -- a first for me -- raking leaves. It felt nice to be outside on such a crisp autumn day. By the time I arrived at my parents' house I had worked up a voracious appetite.

[piles o' leaves]

At the end of the night I spent some time talking to my aunt, my mom's big sis, who is tiny but has a way of hugging you with the strength of the universe.  And who looks so much like my mom that I nearly started crying as I looked at her.  She told me stories of my mom as a teenager -- looking in the mirror, worried about this or that -- and as a young woman -- "your mom was the most beautiful I ever saw her when she came back from New Zealand.  She was absolutely gorgeous."

And I'd been thinking this for a while, but as I reflected on what my aunt shared, I began to ask: how many people hurt because my mom's not here?  How many memories do other people have of her?  What kinds of memories?  Of when she was a girl?  Of when she was somebody's girlfriend?  Sister? Daughter? Teacher? Friend? When she was someone who wasn't yet my mom? Who has the greater claim to grief?

There isn't a greater or lesser, a more or less.  It's all different.  Loss is loss.  To each person in their own way.

Mom will never not be in my thoughts or my heart; so I don't know that I need to trek out to the grave to "see" her or talk to her. I don't feel bad that I don't recall the exact time I last spoke with her or that I don't remember exactly what she was wearing. The last time I saw her was in the hospital bed and in the coffin, but those aren't the dominant images I have of her. Her influence on my life will always be so much bigger -- and smaller -- than that.

My college roommate came during the viewing and told me that she felt compelled to come because her mother had suffered from a ruptured brain aneurysm, too. She survived, but was not the same. Even before she told me that, I was grateful that I'd been spared a memory and experience of my mother other than who she was when she was alive and truly herself. I remember MyKo's fiance nodding in agreement when I shared that thought (he's a doctor), and I was reminded again when I read Rachel's post about her stepfather.

There isn't a greater or lesser, a more or less.  It's all different.  Loss is loss.  To each person in their own way.

And so, while sadness has taken up residency in my heart this season, somehow -- however strangely -- gratitude finds a home there, too.

This year (and evermore) I am thankful for my mom.  Thankful that she loved me completely.  Thankful that she did a good job.  Thankful that God loves me enough to have given me her as a mother.   I'm thankful for friends whose experience of having lost a parent has cushioned my fall.  Thankful for my dad and brothers.  And for our extended family, whom I've finally gotten to know better.  To laugh with.  I'm thankful for Wild Horse Cabernet Sauvignon on sale.

And I'm thankful for rakes.