Sunday, October 29, 2006

Only a day

It's just a day. 24 hours. A date on a calendar.

What makes it meaningful is our emotions surrounding it.

So tomorrow -- October 30 --is just a day, the day before Halloween. As a child, I remember getting costumes in order on that day, carving pumpkins, rolling popcorn balls in buttered hands and wrapping them in waxed paper to hand out to trick-or-treaters.

That was a family thing: I remember especially my mother and brother and I rolling and nibbling and rolling and wrapping and nibbling -- it seemed like hundreds of popcorn balls, made sticky-sweet with molasses and sugar and butter. We had some neighborhood children who'd come twice just to get those treats. Alas, homemade treats haven't been on the Halloween menu for nearly 30 years -- maybe more -- because of a few sickos who got their jollies inserting razor blades or needles into the goodies. How much more fun it was to get those yearly homemade cookies from Mrs. Smay's, and waxed-paper-wrapped fudge from the Aldridges next door. I haven't made popcorn balls in years, although I still have the recipe.

But October 30 changed for me last year. My mother died that night, quietly, simply. She waited until both my brother and I had traveled to be with her, and then, with each of us holding one of her hands, she just stopped being, stopped breathing, stopped living.

It's just a day. But she is so present in my thoughts: those last days, hours, minutes are crystal clear for me, and I'm reliving them over and over and over in my head, as I try to sleep, when I wake, when I see her handwriting on a card or come across an unexpected photo.

It's gotten mostly easier this year as time has elapsed, and there are days that she's in my head only briefly. Just yesterday I thought, "Oh, this isn't going to be as hard as I was afraid it would be."

Uh-uh. It hit today.

364 days have gone by, one day at a time, one hour at a time. Just a date on the calendar, most of them, and as in any year, some good, some great, some so-so, some pretty hard.

So I guess I have choices about how I spend today and tomorrow. I can let my grief and nostalgia and tears dominate my emotions and actions, remembering the sadness, the hour-by-hour progression, the sad task of cleaning up the end of a life, and spend this next 24 hours letting all of that wash over and over me.

Or I can acknowledge the day, acknowledge how much I miss her and how sad I feel, and spend that 24 hours doing things she would have enjoyed doing or hearing about: reading, cooking, watching the deer, working in the yard and soaking up the last of the sunny days. Light a candle. Say a prayer. Talk with my brother about those pre-Halloween memories -- the twin clown costumes she sewed for us and that we wore for years, or those popcorn balls.

Maybe I'll pull out that old recipe and make them. She'd have liked that.

1 comment:

Tammy said...

Hello Beth,

I stumbled across your blog a few months ago, and I've been reading ever since. I lost my father nearly a year ago, November 5th to be exact, and your words have been so poignant and explain how I feel as well.

I just wanted to finally say hello and let you know that someone else out here feels exactly how you are right now, and we'll both make it through it in our own way.

Take care.