Here’s a photo of my daughter, Clair, on my very first Mother’s Day. Her little dress has “Happy Mother’s Day” embroidered across the apron.
It had been the most harrowing five months on my life. That day, her dad went to work, I took Clair to the zoo.
26 years later I am sitting here. She is a ball of energy exploring somewhere. She finally broke free of the battered and inadequate shell she was granted for her time here.
The night before we took her off life support had been a tough one. Two calls from the hospital announced a steady and quick decline. I woke at 5:30. I knew what had to happen that day.
Her dad and I had been of the same mind since the beginning-she was only supposed to make it to three-then thriving after a stroke at 18. They sent us home with a dozen medications and “palliative” care. That’s a nice way of saying “pre-hospice.” The doctors shrugged their shoulders and said “maybe a couple of years?” She turned 27 last December.
I am so happy Clair and I lived in the same neighborhood. I walked by her apartment building yesterday; glancing toward her bedroom window. The curtain was tied with a ribbon to let in the sun. It’s a thing I used to do when the family was me and her brothers. She had learned to do it shortly after she’d moved there. She was so proud to show me that she did it. “Look mom, just like at home!”
I thinking about Viv today too. I was there when she took her last breath. Another sibling was there, too. “Having” to be there left her with a “ghastly memory seared into her brain.” The phrase was a harbinger of things to come. I have not talked to her in over a decade.
For me, it had been an honor to be there. Despite all the stark differences we had I will always remember how distraught Viv was when my sister Kay, died alone in the emergency room after becoming an innocent victim of a high-speed police chase. Beware suburban cops with little experience and something to prove. That broke my heart. I resolved then that I would not let Viv die alone.
As I held her hand and watched her take her last breath I was flooded with a sense of peace.
I have now experienced that twice in my life. In the chain of maiden, mother, crone I am a crone who has lost both her mother and her maiden.
It has been an interesting couple of months for me. I find myself easily burning bridges that should have been burned a long time ago. I am finding my own voice and making it louder. I have moments of profound sadness and moments of soaring joy that bring the same tears the sadness brings.
I am also astounded at how much care and emotion and thought I put into Clair’s life. The most surprising thing is the enormous sense of relief I have.
The children and I were a rather nontraditional family. We continue to be so today. My Mother’s Day gift? The faucet I have been coveting. My sons even sprung for the in-sink soap dispenser! Then I went downtown to take some photos for a story I’m writing. My youngest son called from Russia. My oldest son (with my enthusiastic permission) was in a muddy forest somewhere hunting the elusive holy grail of wild edibles, ramps. I have a loaf of fine bread in my near future. I know my oldest and only daughter is finally able to do it her own way, too.