Mom left us just over a week ago. She was 81. I hadn’t had the closest relationship with her most of my life but she was my only surviving parent, since Dad left us in 2004. I attended the funeral service, cried, attended the burial, cried a little there too, and the rest of the week have been spending time with my brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, etc and their families.
She left quite a legacy. Five kids, most with kids of their own, and all of them successful in life.
I’m the last one here, at least the last one from out of town. I roamed over the house at 6am this morning, unable to sleep. I opened every drawer, every closet, looked in every cupboard and explored the house one last time. I found 52 years of accumulated junk. Of course, there were some highlights as well. I found an old guitar, no longer playable, my first guitar. I found a wetsuit I used to wear when sailing and windsurfing in the 70s. I found some great pictures. I found lots of memories.
What I found most was sadness. This house will be leaving us, or more accurately, we will be leaving this house. It will be cleaned out in the next few weeks, with all of our things sorted, cataloged, sifted, and eventually either sold or thrown away. I have no facility for taking anything back with me to Orlando that makes any sense, so instead I’ve taken a lot of pictures and scanned many photos I found here.
The sadness from the realization that this, my last refuge, is leaving the family. This, the house I grew up in, will no longer be a place to visit or stay. This beautiful house, which I never really appreciated until now, will soon belong to someone else. This incredible house, which was the neighborhood playground, the center of so much social action, the cradle of my immediate family, hopefully will be all of that for another family. My hope and prayer for you, whoever you are, is that you enjoy it and appreciate it in the way that I didn’t.
The street has changed since I was young. In the 60s and 70s, when I grew up, it was always teeming with kids. Bikes flew up and down the street. Basketball hoops were everywhere and in much use. Dogs roamed up and down the street freely. Parties were frequent and loud. I recall one birthday evening when friends down the street, had a local rock band (“Willie and the New Yorkers”), playing on the back porch. I recall many evenings when my own band, several names but mostly the same guys, me, Jim & Ray Barnes, and other notorious local music icons, would play in the cellar, on the porch or even in the living room (mom hated that.)
Now the street is quiet. I see no kids when I travel up and down. No bikes. No dogs. No basketball games. Very little noise. Is it because we are all older or is it electronic devices? The irony that I am typing on a computer at this moment is not lost on me.
I had more time in the afternoon, so I did some more searching through the house and found something interesting. Hidden in a nondescript box next to mom’s favorite chair on the porch, I found a small photo album. There were pictures of all of us in there, but the picture below hit me, and hit me hard. It made me cry. This is me as a new born. It made me cry because it made me feel very old, it made me miss my mom, it made me realize that this is how mom and dad thought of me, even until the end, and I know this, because this is how I think of my daughter Grace, my first born.
So here it is, Mother’s Day, my first without a mother. I can’t call you anymore mom, I can’t tell you all that is going with the wife and kids, the business, and all the personal things in my life that we pretended you cared about. I’m sure that in some way you did. As a parent now, I know how it is. My daughters are everything to me but I now understand the practice of pinning things up on the refrigerator, looking at a drawing, appreciating projects, and even turning off the TV so I can hear a story.
I won’t be the same after this. I will pay more attention to my children. I will treasure and value each moment with them. I know they probably won’t appreciate it until I am gone but now I see it’s important then as well.
So it’s the worst Mother’s Day ever, but it’s also the most emotional Mother’s Day I’ve ever had. I never thought I would miss you as much as I do. I realize that to us, you were much more than just our mother, more than just another person. You were Home. You held down the fort. This house is just another house without you in it. When we lost you, we lost much more than just a mother. We lost our family stronghold. What am I going to do now?
I’ll head home, hug my kids, my wife, and probably all the pets as well. I will continue to cry. I appreciate things I’ve never appreciated in this way before. I suppose I have you to thank for that.
Happy Mother’s Day mom.