Monday, July 25, 2016

Then There Were Four

The familiar hum of the airplane whirs and buzzes around me in spite of the music in my headphones. I’m plugged into my music trying my best to pretend I’m on a large bus or train. I’ve always had a fear of flying but I’ll save that story for another entry. That’s not why I’m writing today. Last night Cliff and I missed our connecting flight to Buffalo, New York. It’s the week of our anniversary and we’re going to see my friend Sue.

Anyway, because of air traffic and mechanical issues, we missed the connecting flight and had to stay the night in Atlanta. There was a lot of time to kill. Like most people, we pulled out our phones and perused good old social media. A few things came up on my feed. There was the usual political ranting, right and left wing, and no holds barred. Advertisements and vacation pictures were in between the madness. Then my brother Mitch scrolled into view. He posted two pictures that still have my heart reeling this morning. For those of you that have flown with me, you know that I’m the chic in Bridesmaids looking for the colonial woman churning butter on the wing. But this morning she’s not there. I’m calm and burdened all at the same time.

My brother and I have a special bond. We always have. Through out child hood we have had experiences that are not for blog posting. What I will tell you is that they were experiences that changed us as people and in my mind they have tied us together more than the average sibling. So when I saw his feed, I was broken hearted. I couldn’t reach out to him to give a hug and I couldn’t call because it was late. Maybe I should have.

There on my phone was a picture of our mother whizzing through the breeze on her scooter. The last few years she needed one because walking long distances became difficult for her. On her hand was what my husband would loving call her “Linus”; her vapor thing that she traded smoking in for. There was a look of joy, peace, and mischief. I remember the day that picture was taken. We were heading to the pool in our apartment complex and my friend Melissa caught her in action. She was up to something and you could see it in her face. Another friend, Lisse, always used to joke that Mom was up to no good. I love that picture. It’s the visual depiction of Mom’s spirit. The caption read, “This is what she’s doing now.”

The other picture that appeared on my screen was a picture of my brother holding her hand while she lay taking her last breaths in the hospital. The caption read, “I miss Mom.” Her manicure was perfect. She loved the way Kevin at the nail salon I would take her to made a French manicure look perfect. I saved both pictures even though I’m sure I have them. My brother and Mom had a difficult relationship and that was the last time he had to spend with her. I miss her so much that it makes my whole body hurt but I had her with me the last three years. In that moment as I looked at that picture  I realized how much I love my siblings. I wanted to take my brother’s pain and sadness and keep it for myself so that he didn’t have to endure it any longer. But I can’t.

As a middle child, I have always found myself trying to fix the problems in my family. In some way or another, I wanted to take care of my brother and my sisters. I still do. I’m not a mother and I never have been but when I see them hurt, I wonder if this is what it’s like. I often heard my Mom say that when we were in pain she was too. Seeing that picture made me feel pain and guilt. I can’t fix this. I can’t mend them.

Then I thought about my sisters. Mom raised four strong willed children. My siblings are very intelligent, creative, and pains in my ass. I mean that with all the love I have in my heart. Through life and through this journey of losing our mother, I have come to realize that even when I’m angry with them or we’re having a good time, I want to take care of them. I want to hold them until they feel how much I love them. Right now I’m not getting along with one of my sisters and in spite of that, I still want to wrap her in love.  Over the years it has been rocky with all of us collectively. Whenever I see other families that get along, I miss mine more and more. There were times that we played together and laughed for hours. I miss those moments.
As we surrounded my mother one last time, I knew this was the last time we would all be together as a family. For so long it was just Mom and the four of us against the world. She wasn’t a perfect mother. No one is. But she loved us with everything she had in her. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her raising us alone. How many nights did she go to bed worried or scared? I never asked her. But now some nights I go to bed worried and scared for them. It’s a weird and I’m aware of that. The worry and fear is really just a reality check. Growing up I always believed that I could make them better. If I loved them enough, I could heal them. As I bump around at 30,000 feet, all I can think of is them.

Our glue is gone. I always believed it was me but it wasn’t. Mom was the tie between us even when half of us weren’t talking to her. She was loud. She was funny. She was a pain in the ass and she was all ours. As I look at those pictures I realize that we all had our own special connection to her. Now that she’s gone, we’re all lost in some way. We’re trying to find our new normal and it’s been tough. Each day seems like a rite of passage now.

I can’t make it better but what my siblings don’t know is that right now as I sit on this flight, they have taken care of me. I’m consumed with love and worry for them. I was able to type this blog through most of the flight. I feel them in my heart in this moment. I can’t take their pain away but I can love them right here and now regardless of disagreements that we may have at one time or another. I love with more than my heart and soul. I love them with my whole being.