A Year Ago, Today
Posted on March 16, 2017
Yesterday on the yoga mat tears flowed. They came from out of the blue. This has happened once before, during savasana at one of my favorite Yoga Works class when I lived in Southern California. I was mortified then, but likely no one saw me wiping tears because, well…it’s savasana.
I haven’t been on the mat for at least a week now. So when I found myself on the mat yesterday I was not expecting that a piece from my Spotify playlist would tug at my heart-strings just so.
I may as well have been in that hospital room. The images of tubes, monitors, tears (gut-wrenching tears), my distraught sister, and the unbelievably kind critical care nurse were strikingly vivid.
In that room, I had placed my iPhone on mom’s pillow as she lay dying after being taken off life support. I selected the first playlist that was a recent play for her to listen to; it was an album of Albinoni’s Adagios. He was among her many, many classical music favorites.
Pressed back into child’s pose the Adagio for Strings stirred a Colorado memory from over four decades ago. Mom, fresh on the heels of divorce after twenty years of a tumultuous marriage, was driving in a posh Denver neighborhood to begin giving piano lessons to a new student. The car radio was tuned, as always, to the classical music station. The beautiful tree-lined avenue with opulent and stately mansions on both sides of the street was in sharp contrast to our modest home in a neighborhood that was on the verge of becoming known as “mont-ghetto.” Why I was tagging along, I don’t recall. But the stress of that time still creates a knot in the pit of my stomach–one that makes me nauseous–whenever those memories bubble to the surface. But, as much as life with mom was difficult because she was an intense, high-strung, dominating force of nature, I realize too that she was simply fighting to survive, with minimal tools at best, any way she could during a time of great upheaval and uncertainty. Mom stubbornly marched to her own drummer, refusing even to punch a time clock as in a regular 9 to 5 job. She did have an amazing gift however and that was teaching piano. Her students, ages 4 to 64 could attest to that.
Tears spilled onto the mat as the dramas of my life came rushing into my present moment. I had to quell this flood or the day would certainly be a wash, not to mention my fragile yoga practice. I sat up taking a seat on my little red pillow, the one that I am trying to get more use out of for meditation or prayer. I closed my eyes and focused on slow and rhythmic breathing. With each exhalation I let my mantra be: Let it go.
Let it go. Let it go. LET IT GO.
The tears stopped. The mantra worked…this time anyway.
So, It’s been a year ago today since sis and I said good-bye to our mama.
Her fall happened sometime between 10 p.m. last night and early morning today. She fell in the hallway of her “home” hitting her head. She never woke up.
Since that evening a year ago when we witnessed her last breath there hasn’t been a day that I’ve not thought about my mother. The episode yesterday on the mat is one of many. Some days something stirs a memory which results in emotions that I am not always proud of: anger, resentment….bitterness for things said and unsaid…things done and not done.
I may as well be a child again.
But there are other days that a smell (like nutmeg) or words (like, good grief!) triggers a smile that warms my heart.
In all sincerity, though my struggle is real, I am striving to not let negative emotions be the focus of my memories of mama. Time is helping. I am managing to pull happier memories to the surface more often, which honestly, is surprising to me. I didn’t think that would be possible.
Like a shopping moment together at Target in 2014. I was taking care of mom in the aftermath of her husband’s death. Frail and weak from years of self-imposed hibernation in bed as well as some health issues, she agreed to accompanying me to Target. I was practically doing cartwheels of joy over this.
“I need a new bathing suit,” she said.
I was thrilled that mom had gotten out of the house and was participating in the shopping process. During those last few years of her life, there were not many moments of normalcy and lightheartedness between us.
Mom was perched on the seat of her walker as I lost myself in the racks looking for a bathing suit for her. I kept her within an easy arm’s reach because I was afraid she would fall. But, while my back was turned for a moment mom decided to take matters into her own hands.
“I want this one,” she said. I turned to find her holding up a white fringed bikini. She made the fringes dance as she waved the itsy-bitsy garment with a dramatic flourish.
Mom was smiling from ear to ear as she saw my surprise. I couldn’t help but dissolve in laughter….and so did mom.
Naturally we did not buy the bikini but we did manage to find a couple of one-piece suits.
“So mama, now you have two new suits. No excuses; you must get yourself back in your lovely swimming pool before your move. Then in a month or so you will be in a new place which has both an indoor pool and an outdoor pool. There will be people around assisting you. You won’t be alone anymore. Promise me you’ll go to the pool mama?
“Oh sure,” she said with a dismissive wave of her hand.
She only went once during the year and a half that she was in that stunningly beautiful continuing care community and that was only when sis and I flew out for an Easter visit.
It breaks my heart to this day that mom had decided life was over long before she ever left her beautiful Villa Paradiso home. Still, just as in that one shopping moment, there were slivers of hope–and motherly love– that she intentionally offered to sis and me despite her years of depression. Not many mind you, but enough to know that she was trying in her own way to make her daughters happy and worry less.
Oh mama, I pray your soul has found peace and joy in your forever home. I’m thinking you must be enjoying spirited conversations with some of your notable favorites: Krishnamurti, Mozart, Chopin and Orianna Fallaci…to name a few that come to mind. And even though our relationship was strained since before I left your womb, I miss you. I really do.
I look out the window and see that the sun is just beginning to peek over the hills in the distance. It’s time to get on with this day. It’s mighty cold out but when it warms up there will be a walk with The Poodle, a piece of cherry pie and who knows what else the day will bring!