Fireworks on the 4th

Not only did my mother love fireworks, she also loved to try and capture a good one with a photo. Usually they are pretty elusive, but my mom got a pretty good one in this shot here.
Not only did my mother love fireworks, she also loved to try and capture them with a photo. Usually they were pretty elusive, but she got a good one in this shot.

Two years ago today my mom sat in her wheel chair at MSUM’s Nemzek field.  A yearly ritual, we would park nearby, walk up to the stands, listen to the cover band play old American classics and wait for the lights to dim.  Once it was fully dark we would see the first reload shoot up with a “thwump”, a swirling smoke stream left in its wake, and then the first “pop” and “ahh” would echo the stands.  My mom was usually the loudest to “ooo” and “ahh”; sometimes a pop would sparkle so impressively she would start to clap.  She always remembered to tell us that the “palm tree” ones were her favorite—an opinion that I shared either because of her immense proselytization of their beauty and “awesomeness” or just because they really are the best and most awesome—I’ll never really be sure.

 

Two years ago was different though.  This time we sat on the side because my mother would never be able to make it up the steps of the bleachers.  We brought her walker/wheelchair and parked in the handicap spots about 100 meters from where we plopped our chairs on the grass.  It was still a great view and you could hear the music off the side of the bleachers.   My mother had wanted to go and had rallied a significant amount of energy just to make it to this unorthodox spot.  We talked about small things that I can’t remember much until the fireworks began. After the first pop or two it wasn’t an “ooo” and “ahh” that I heard, but a remark filled with knowledge and sadness, “I just keep thinking—long pause—that these are the last fireworks that I’ll see.”

 

And right away I quipped back with a, “You don’t know that mom.  You might be able to see them next year.  Things could get better like they have before!” But, she did know and had grasped something remarkable that few of us get to experience.

 

What would it be like to see fireworks with eyes that knew they were the last you’d ever see?  What would it be like to be aware that it was the end?  Even in old age it’s rare to know exactly when you’re going to go.  How good and bad and overwhelming and peaceful would it feel to get to say goodbye to someone with finality?

 

My mother, in her brown wig with highlights and her uncomfortable walker/wheelchair sitting outside the Moorhead football field, knowing this would be it; “ooo” and “ahh” she continued after we both let the comments be forgotten.  “These palm tree ones are my favorite.  I always love the way they sparkle.”

 

Me too mom.  And I still do.

Pretend Tomorrow Is from Me

 

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These past days (weeks, months?) I’ve been so caught up in a job and driving places and sharing in wonderful and major life events.  It’s been like a giant train speeding ahead and all I can do is look forward.

 

And there my mother’s ashes sit of the shelf.  Static. Cold. Still permanent.

 

This morning I woke up to the rain dropping through the leaves in my back yard.  I think of my mother. I think of the new house I just bought.  I talk about the first joint checking account I will open with someone.  I talk about all the weddings I’ve been to and that they were just the right kind of love.  I talk about you, and how I wish we could talk.

 

Last summer I got to write and grieve and write and grieve.   It was a fevered sort of peace that let me process and had me desperate to hold onto you.

Then I took a job, and it has turned out to be heavy, and distracting, and full of its own consuming challenges.  I can’t stop because the job won’t let me, because I love these little kids, because public education in the city of Philadelphia is a joke compared to what it should be and it tears my heart everyday that I can’t make it better.

 

You, there on the shelf, are you still a part of this struggle with me?

 

She comes back to me in waves while I’m moving through stress and joy and moments.

You still guide me when I feel like a failure and I need someone to tell me that they love me, that I can do anything, that there’s no reason to question myself because of course you know I can.

 

You are still there in pockets of my every day.

But I want to write you in permanently.  I want to welcome you back through the words of your story.  I want to remember you always:  not just in the tattoo I want to get or a picture that shows your smile.

 

Sometime in 2014 you sent me a card that says on the front:  “Every day is a gift” and in the middle:  “Pretend tomorrow is from me.”  You crossed out the part below that said “Happy Birthday” and wrote “Happy You are Loved day.”

 

Every day is a gift from you, mom. I miss you and I’ll never forget.

 

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i carry your heart with me(I carry it in my heart)