Friday, May 18, 2018

My Mom would have been 80 today.*

*Had she lived.

Today is/was my mom's birthday.  She would have been 80 today. *

This asterisk is the sad reality that I am still facing. My mom died 10 1/2 years ago, but I'm still wondering what my life, what our life would be like now with that asterisk.

I have been thinking a lot about that asterisk.  Over the last few years, there's been a lot of death of friends, and acquaintances.  My wife's uncle very recently died suddenly.  We saw him on Friday and on Sunday he was in a coma, and on Thursday he passed away.  Three or four friends around my age- died suddenly.  It's starting to be an occupational hazard.

I think about this with my dad too (who died at age 49 in a car accident.)  What would my life be like if he was still alive?  There are endless what-ifs of course, and ultimately there are no answers.  Because the fact is, you move on.  Even when it seems impossible.  You move on because you have to.  Life doesn't stop when somebody close to you dies.  It might seem that way, or even that you want it to stop, but it just doesn't.  You shoulder your burden, you shift your load, you cry your tears, and you keep on walking.  The river doesn't stop, your bills don't stop needing to be paid, your library books don't get infinitely extended.  Life goes on, and it's just that much harder.  As the French might say "C'est la Guerre de vie."  (It's the war of life.)

There's part of me that still grieves, and still wonders these unknowable questions. Questions that have an asterisk at the end. Questions like these:

My mom at my brother's wedding.
Would I be happier?*  It's hard to know. Certainly, a lot of the blunt force trauma that life has dealt me so far is about the death of my parents.  But I also feel it's made me a better person.  I remember that after my father died (when I was in acting school) my acting teachers and friends said that my acting and my attitude changed dramatically.  I wasn't suddenly a know it all. I was vulnerable, and I was able to show it.  And I don't feel tremendously unhappy.  But I do bear the emotional scars of life, and for better or for worse, they've made me the person I am today.

Would we be living in Chicago?*  We moved here to be closer to my wife's family. Would I have agreed so readily if my mom were still around?  I am really happy with our move, but could I have taken that step if my mom were still on the east coast.  I think so, and hopefully, she would have traveled to see us (or us, her.)

Would she have gotten sicker, and lost her joie d'vivre?*  My mom was relatively lucky.  She'd been told multiple times she had 6 months to live, and she beat the odds again and again and again.  When she finally did get sick, it happened suddenly.  She was ill and woozy and unresponsive. I happened to be staying with her for the evening, I called the ambulance, and they brought her into the hospital.  An hour or so later she was in a coma, and about 7 days later she died in her sleep.  She was deathly afraid of being a burden to us kids, and to being forced to live out a miserable existence in a hospital, or kept alive by machines.  It's not what she wanted, and fortunately, she got mostly what she wanted.  She loved to travel and to enjoy life.

Would she have been proud of my work?*  Almost certainly, yes, as she was proud of just about everything I ever did.  She would also be nagging me to do more, to teach at a university, to do something else.  Because she was never quite satisfied with what I did either.  She always wanted a little more. I'm ok with that.  She's probably right.  I could probably be more productive.  (a whole 'nother set of asterisk questions)

The one I ask myself the most is
One of the last pictures I have of my mom and me together.

Would she love my son? *
And this is the one that I know the answer to.  She never got to meet him (we got pregnant about 10 days before she died, but we weren't telling anybody.  And I was (I think) an unlikely father before that.  I think had she found out I was having a baby, she may well have had a heart attack!)  But the answer plain and simple is she would have adored him.  She would have doted on him, and bought him ice cream, and teach him to do crazy arts and crafts, and revel in his exuberance, and constantly marvel at how similar (and how different) he is to me when I was at that age.  My mom loved creativity and thinking different, and I know she would have loved my boy, who is now age 9 going on 16.

Most importantly she'd be listening to him, and challenging him, and helping to mold him into a better human being. Because that's who my mom was.  That's what she did.

My mom would have been 80 today*.  But she's still alive in my memories, and probably the memories of all who knew her and loved her.

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