“Do you still miss your mother?”
The question caught me off guard. My friend and I had ventured out to the park with our children to enjoy a rare sunny February day in Portland. It was one of those deceptively clear days, one of those days that gets you excited for spring, before realizing the sun is still too far away to give off much warmth. We stood huddled together as we watched our children run around the park. I wrapped my arms tighter around my 11-month-old, cozy in the Ergo, trying to capture some of his warmth.
Do I still miss my mother? I paused. Longer than seemed appropriate. My mom died of brain cancer when I was in high school, twenty years ago now. And for many years, I missed her vividly. I missed the smell of cold air on her long wool coat when she came home from work. I missed the sound of her pouring a glass of bourbon over ice. I missed seeing her crossword puzzles, done in felt tip pen, covered with splotches where she had fallen asleep mid-answer. I missed the sound of her voice. Later, I missed remembering what her voice sounded like. I missed her.
With time the rawness of her loss faded. Although her absence was felt, I no longer felt in danger of falling into the hole her absence created. I could see the edges of it. I learned not to get too close.
Do I still miss my mother? Because I lost her so young, I find that I don’t miss her as much because of the experiences we shared or the conversations we had. I miss her for those we didn’t.
When I got pregnant with my first child, my mother’s absence loomed larger. There were so many questions I wanted to ask her. Did she get morning sickness? Did she worry like I did about the little life growing inside her she couldn’t see? What was labor like for her?
After my son was born, I wondered what she felt as a new mother experiencing the exhilaration and monotony of motherhood. I wondered what advice she would have given me. I wondered if I would have called her for reassurance with milk streaming down my chest and tears streaming down my face. I wondered what she would have said when I told her my son’s first word – cat – the same as mine.