My mom would have been 75 yesterday. If only she'd lived.
Instead, she died in the wee hours of the morning after Christmas, at the age of sixty-four. My daughter, my firstborn, was a toddler in my arms and has no memory of the grandmother who thought she was beauty personified. She'll never remember her grandmother's arms, or her laugh, or the way she sang that silly song while she bounced her on her knee...
Ride the pony to the store
Lets go back and get some more
It ended with a big bounce that made my daughter whoop and shriek and there was no doubt that she loved her grandma every bit as much as grandma loved her.
But she won't remember any of that, because she was only twenty months old when Mom died. All we have are a few pictures now, and a bit of videotape from their one face-to-face encounter, when my daughter was five months old. We lived far away, unfortunately. And we thought we had more time. We didn't.
And Mom had a hard time traveling - her health was poor in those last ten years before she died. I wouldn't call those quality years, by anyone's definition.
She never met my son. She didn't even know he was going to happen when she died. He was conceived three months after her death, and he has never known the press of her kiss to his forehead, never fallen asleep in his grandma's arms, and never, ever will.
I never got to call my Mom when he was diagnosed with autism, to cry, to vent, to be comforted.
I never got to call her when my husband walked out the door to be with the woman he replaced me with.
I never got to call her when my son broke his leg and I had to sit up with him all night as he moaned and cried because they couldn't set it till the following morning and I had to keep giving him his pain medicine and carrying him to the bathroom, and I had to do it all alone.
I can't call her now when my daughter is giving me fits, to find out how she managed not to lock me in a sound-proof closet for the entirety of my teen years.
I can't tell her that her granddaughter is a gifted student in math and science, and wants to go to medical school so that she can go into research.
I can't let her know that her grandson is learning to play piano and is pretty much a prodigy, his fingers flying over the keys. And he's tracking at level with most of his third grade class and autism isn't a bad word in our house, most of the time.
I worry about my Dad, now seventy-seven and living all alone in that house so far from me. He's stubbornly independent and won't leave. Thank God my brother bought him a dog, but he's lonely. I call and we visit at least once a year, but it's a small substitute for having a live-in companion for almost all of his adult life years.
She went in the hospital on their forty-fifth wedding anniversary. Three days later, she was gone. I'll never be able to enjoy the holiday season without thinking of that Christmas night, the phone call from Dad telling me they were disconnecting the machines keeping Mom alive, my daughter sleeping in my arms as I sat up and waited for the call.
And then the call came, and the world was a different place because my mother wasn't in it.
If you're a smoker, I want to tell you this:
If you can't do it for you, put the cigarettes down for someone else.
People miss you when you die too soon.