Regular readers of this blog know that after more than 49 years of marriage my parents have decided to separate. Over the past few months I’ve memorized a new phone number for my mother. I wrote her new address on a piece of lime green note paper and pinned it to my bulletin board. I’ve repeated stories about my children in the past few weeks twice– first to one of my parents, then to the other.
But six days ago I had the unique and unpleasant experience of driving up the driveway to the house they still own knowing my mother would not be standing out in the driveway waiting for me to arrive.
I was greeted by my father, instead, alone ushering me into my mother’s garage bay, the one she still uses when she has occasion to be at the house.
I walked inside and looked around; her desk in the kitchen was mostly bare, so too some of the walls in each of the rooms. The refrigerator held less than half of what it usually would; even my beloved Nespresso machine was no longer a fixture. I didn’t even go in many of the rooms. I didn’t want to see all of the changes.
Things were different, and not only the things.
Seeing my mother needed to be planned, coordinated. No longer was she only as far as a loud yell down the hall. No more could I stalk her around the house instigating conversation in an attempt to catch up on every little thing we’d missed since our last phone call.
That night I saw her new apartment and everything really started to sink in. By the next morning when I awakened I was overcome with emotion. I went downstairs to the kitchen and still half-expected her to be there, reading the paper, re-heating a cup of coffee that might have been put aside and gotten a chill. I still expected to see her the way I almost always did in the morning: dressed for the day, a full face of makeup save the trademark cherry red lipstick she would wait to apply until she had finished her morning cup of coffee.
For now phone calls via speed dial and texts would have to tie us together.
It wasn’t the same, of course. It couldn’t be. It can’t ever be.
I did keep a constant refrain in my head: my mother is alive, my mother is healthy. I am thankful for that.
She was not under the same roof I was anymore, but she still resides where she always has: in my heart, as close as she can be.