Today would have been my parent’s 42nd wedding anniversary. I am thinking of you today, Mom. She has been gone for almost six years now. It’s hard to believe. Time marches on, and things change. Last month, my father and his girlfriend, Helen got engaged. Helen is a lovely woman and has been a part of our family for many years now. We absolutely adore her, and we are happy to celebrate this union with them next summer.
Lately I have been having dreams that my mother is alive, and Dad and Helen have moved on, and she is left out of the mix. I feel so torn between them. I know, it’s my own craziness. For some reason, it feels like a part of our family is being left behind. Don’t get me wrong, Helen has done a wonderful job navigating through these tough waters. She has never tried to replace her, and we talk about my mother constantly. To top it all off, she often helps out with my 90 year old grandmother, Nanny (my mom’s mom.) Which for most would be quite awkward (especially since she is not an ahem… easy woman.)
Nanny giving a toast at her 90th birthday party.
As time goes on, I am nervous that it will be harder and harder to keep the memory of my mother alive. I am scared that I will forget the feel of her skin, or her smell, or even the piercing sound of her voice (think Fran Drescher.) Then I look to my girls, who seem to have this unwavering connection with her. They think that she is hilarious, and they never even knew her. Every night as I put them to bed they ask me to tell them a story of when I was a little girl. Inevitably, all of their favorite stories contain my mother. They think that my impersonation of her New York accent is hilarious, and E is constantly repeating the one-liners that seemed to come out of her mouth.
For example, my entire family and Mike came to JMU for my college graduation. My mom (Neets, as I called her) was never much of a drinker. The night before my graduation, we dropped my mom and Nanny off at the hotel. Mike drove my Dad (who we affectionately refer to as Big John), my siblings, my roommates, and I around from bar to bar. Sure enough it was closing time and Big John was not ready to throw in the towel. Not only did he convince a local pizza joint to open it’s doors and make us pizza, he greased them into serving us more beer. So…… with two hours of sleep, we were all a wreck the next day. Neets was PISSED. So with all seven of us packed into the family roadster, my mother would not stop talking (which was not unusual for her) but the more we asked her to stop, the louder she became. It was clear she was going to teach all of us (especially Big John) a lesson. In between her ramblings, we passed by a flower bed that beautifully depicted the JMU logo, and without even taking a breath she said in between ramblings “Awwwhhhh, look at the flowaaaas” (my best phonetic NY accent.) It was so funny, I nearly peed my pants.
Now, when Mike and I are driving in the car with the girls, E will randomly bust out with “Awwwhhhh, look at the flowaaaas” Still gets me every time. Through these moments. it occurs to me that we are keeping her memory alive. While it’s important to share memories of the past, it is much more important to live in the present. So, as we move into this new uncharted chapter for our family, we welcome Helen with open arms, and will continue to keep Neet’s memory alive. Above all, we will always “look at the flowaaaas.”