In the end, you think about the many times she danced through the living room holding the cat, with those tiny cat antlers it used to hate. The times she dressed at the vanity in her room draping jewelry on and your eight-year-old eyes thought it was magic. You dreamed she was beautiful and then wished years away so you could grow fast forward. You asked her to twirl. She did and spun you around. She held your hand and said I love you and then she gave you a kiss before heading off to the dance with a friend.
The grief fills you with an overwhelming sad stone in your chest you think you may drown in your tears. You miss her even before she is gone and then you hope a moment and you recall that she said just last night: “You are the best daughter. I could never ask for a better daughter. You have been so good to me. I am sorry I have been so much trouble.” You whisper: “You were never any trouble. You are the best Mom I could ever ask for and I love you,” and what you meant to say when all those nurses were crowded round with tubes and masks and questions was: “I would pick you every time and I remember every lesson you ever taught me, every time I brought home an A and you praised it, every byline you were so proud of when you read my name. I forget the arguments. I forget how mad you were last month when I forgot to call.
You hope you showed enough kindness and love and made the right choices for her at the end when she asked you to be the adult, take over for awhile if I cannot get better and speak. You wish the world had bent for her, opened up at her feet, offered her rose petals every time she walked down the hall to dinner in her retirement home
. She was kind and caring and good. She built kids. She moulded brains and bodies and grade two spirits and showed them a world of possible pathways. She took their hands and coached them down this one, or that, depending on their jewels. And she had the strongest heart that ever beat. You remember your heart grew just under hers and you start to weep again. When did it start to function independent of hers? At birth? Nearing death? Did it ever?
You think then of the little losses mounting up. The grandmas now all gone. Your children will never do the things they planned with grandma. You remember the first time you made her Grandma. She never minded that name. In fact she loved it, embraced it, shook it, made it an excuse to shop weekly bringing grand-daughters new treasures. T-shirt here. Skirt there. So many pretty dresses, hard to resist.
Picture perfect the first time she met her first grand-daughter and she held her as if she were you again. She looked at her with awe, instant fully born love that never changed. The first car grandma promised to first grand-daughter, the moment she would come and see her grand-daughter graduate from high school. The times your baby said: “when I am a bit older I will walk to grandma’s retirement home after school and help her. “You wish it so hard for your kids that you are that eight-year-old wide-eyed girl again. You wish with eyes closed and pray to a God you haven’t spoken to in years because, why? Well, because she believed he is there. Maybe, you think, this will help.
You lose bits of future and it is now a different shape, a chair with three legs. You see someone at emergency looking like death is near and they are passing and then two hours later that woman gets up and walks away with her daughter smiling. You think this is some cruel joke. Two weeks ago your Mom looked better than her. She was all dressed up, surely she has more to give. How is this possible? Who chooses? Why? Anger courses through your veins. You feel ashamed because she taught you better than that. Even still.
There were days you were sick and she came by Greyhound, then city bus to hospital. You inhaled her before she was even in the room. You knew the sound of each footfall. These were hers, even and soft, determined. Clack, clack, clack, clack. Days ago they were a shuffle. Days ago you held her elbow in the rain and watched Stars on Ice and you wonder if she knew then. This is the last time I will be here.
But I am not done with you yet.
Was it Good Enough?
You think of every last time, hold it in your hand and turn it around: was that the last? was it good enough? was I harsh? Did I give her a good hug before I left? Maybe, but you don’t think so because she was coughing that day and you didn’t want a cold. You cry again and beat yourself with should haves, if onlys. You see futures dance away. Then you lift up one more pearl: the time we flew to Florida together, mother and daughter and ate clams and crocodile and laughed drinking vodka. It wasn’t perfect but it was ours. I was your daughter. When I was a baby you played Hide and Seek and I learned you were there even when I could not see you. I think maybe death is a bit like that. But the stone is back hard in your chest. You breathe each memory so hard it hurts.
But I am not done with you yet.