An Election Plus Two Deaths Equal a Retrospective

I’ve been wanting to write this, but struggled with the words.

I mean, I’m a writer! How can a writer be at a loss for words?

On November 9th, my fiancée and I sat stunned at the election day results. We had talked about what might happen, and both were convinced it might be very close, but weren’t ready for the results.

A phone call came. A neighbor who had taken my fiancée’s mom to vote let my fiancée know her mom seemed out of sorts. A week sped by in a blur. My fiancée rushed between home and the hospital, while I held down the fort. By the end of that week, I was offering her what scant comfort I could.

Let me take a brief pause, here, to share a small detail. Ever since we found it out, my fiancée and I have delighted in the fact our birthdays fall on consecutive days. Hers first on the calendar, then mine the following day.

I’m sure you can guess where this is going.

Midway through this month, I got a call from home. My mom was in the hospital. She had suffered renal failure, but the more pressing concern was that she was having trouble breathing. She had been intubated, and was in the ICU. I called out from work, and pulled what scant, ragged strings we had left to get a ticket. I was on a plane the next day, touched down in Puerto Rico for the first time in five years.

Mom was alert a couple of the times I went to visit, and by the time I was due to board the plane back she was trying to advise me where to get the best Puerto Rican candies to take back. Even though she still couldn’t talk around her tube, she signed and tried to write (her IV as well as swelling hampered her ability to write as well as she would have liked). I chuckled alongside my family at her expressions of exasperation because that was Mom, all right.

I was in the midst of a meeting at work when the call came.

At first, I silenced it: I could call my sister back after the meeting finished (it was already running longer than scheduled). When the second call came through, I knew what to expect. I stepped out of the meeting.

My sister sobbed as she tried to explain what had happened.

My mom had passed. My first and my most fierce defender was gone, only to inhabit my memories. She was the person who is most responsible for me getting on a long, meandering path to writing. I remember losing myself reading through the Childcraft Encyclopedia set she had given me.

And thinking back on all the small things she did that have made me who I am today, I realize that I don’t know how to end this post. I can only paraphrase something I heard some time ago about how once you lose someone you never truly get over it. Instead, you take your place on a bench stretching back to the beginning of time, and join all those who have also lost.

You see, I have to keep waking up and eating breakfast and going to work, and keep doing all the horribly dull but important things that are part of my life. The world keeps turning, itself indifferent to how many years my mom and dad had together before he lost her, or how my newborn niece will never know how generous her grandmother was. . .

If there’s some comfort for me, it’s this: I can tell stories. Stories about how mothers–no matter how flawed they may be–try to love and protect their children until they set them loose into the world.

It doesn’t feel like it’s enough, but it will have to do.

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