The She is my mother. Our history is bitter sweet. I'm thankful we've had time to overcome the past and that I recall less of the bitter and more of the sweet. Mom's had a bad two years now. Several close calls. She's different now. Changed, morphed, evolved.
She's gone over the hurdles of self forgiveness, public forgiveness, and attonement, while setting everything present and past on the straight and narrow. She's prepared, assigned, and accepted. She's gone through the steps the long lived are noted to take on a gradual wind down.
Things that were left undone she made sure I helped her do on my last trip home. One, she wanted me to help her lawyer up and to get her will written and signed. So, I did.
Two, she wanted me to help her get her health care directives signed with a medical power of attorney in place. I did that too.
Three, she finally wore me down into taking things she wants me to have because I finally gave up and said "OK, I'll take them."
Then, on my last day home, she disappeared down the hallway. When she called me to come help her I went to her bedroom.
She'd pulled down the house safe and scattered the contents all over her bed for me to go through.
"What's all this stuff mom?"
"Oh, things you need to know about. Burial policys, the cemetary lots, funeral home arrangements, life insurance policys, deeds, bank accounts and the documents you'll need to submit the will for probate."
I was shocked. This was the 'big box' of secrecy. The box that had been sitting at the top of the closet my whole life. The box that no one went into. The box that locked. I could have heaved right there on the spot.
Instead, I got up and went to the office and pulled out big envelopes, sticky pad notes, and a sharpie and brought them back to her bedroom. There wasn't an inch of her bed not covered in one kind of depressing document or another.
"What's all this?" mom asked.
"Well, I thought it would be best if I organized the paperwork. One pile for you, one pile for dad. What color sticky note do you want to be mom?"
"Bright Pink. Your dad can be the blue."
And into the envelope with the bright pink sticky note went mom's burial policy, funeral home arrangemts, the deed to her cemetary plot. Also a note as to what she wants to wear for burial and her life insurance policys.
On the outside of the envelope I noted the contents placed inside. On the bright pink sticky note I wrote the word "Mom's" and drew a smiley face with a frown.
I also bit the crap out of my bottom lip and tried not to cry like a baby.
"What? Are you crying ??" mom asked.
"This is sad stuff mom. The next time I see this paperwork, you won't be here anymore."
"I know sweetie. That's the way life goes. Better for you to get this mess under your belt now so it won't be so hard later...." And there she faltered, choked up and went quiet.
During the quiet, I pulled my head together and worked on Daddy's Pile which is pretty much just like Moms', except his pile has an envelope with a Bright Blue sticky note on it. Our idle chatter dried up and the rest of the job was finished in silence.
When we were done, the shred pile was ten times larger than the pile of 'keeper' pile. Mom remarked how odd it felt to have nothing left of any sort of secrecy about her life as during that week at home I'd also been tasked with going through their financials to make sure it was all in order. While mom suddenly felt naked, I felt like Lott's wife who'd looked back and seen things she wasn't supposed to.
"I'm sorry mom. But you know me, it's not like I'll remember the exacts of anything and it's not like I would have occasion to tell the details to anyone. It's ok. I promise."
I don't know if she believed me or not, but she looked relieved to have it over and done with. Relieved she'd passed on that million pound baton to the next runner. Relieved someone was online to take care of the details after she's gone. Relieved, to have gotten through the chore.
I thought that once all of that was done, she'd settle down and relax a bit.
But now? Now she keeps saying good-bye. I pointed this out to her and asked why. She said she's having repeated feelings of 'someone walking over her grave.' She says, that my Grandpa has been in her dreams lately. Dreams so vivid she wakes crying. Dreams she has when she says she's not asleep. He keeps saying, "I'll see you at Christmas, Audry."
She calls me two to three times a day just to see what I'm doing. We'll talk and just as suddenly as the phone rings, she cuts it short saying "I love you, you know that don't you?"
And while it's just an "I love you" I hear the undertone. She wants to make sure I know it. In spite of what I hear lurking underneath her words, I say: "Of course you love me. I love you right back." And then? She hangs up.
I suppose she thinks that by frontloading me, that after she's gone I'll have those extra 'I love yous' to lean back on. It's oddly similiar to the driveway good-byes from the times she and daddy used to come and stay with me for two or three weeks.
When they'd pull out of the driveway to head back home, they'd both wave and look back and give the car horn the traditional 'bee-beeps' until they were out of sight and gone.
Only now, she's waving and looking back over the phone.
I suppose I could blow it off to an old woman's supersticious dreams and fear of dying. Fear of leaving. Fear of ceasing. And? Perhaps I shouldn't let my fear about her death leak over into the time we have left together - but it does. Her sense of impending death is hard to ignore.
So I admit. I've been living braced for impact. Every time I pick up the phone and see a Mobile, Alabama area code on the caller ID, I brace for impact. I inhale and hold my breath. I think, please not today.
I'm playing a sinister game of Russian Roulette with AT& T long distance. My chest clinches up until I hear her say, 'hi sweetie it's mom'. Then I let out a sigh of relief that could fill the Grand Canyon. I think, bullet missed.
The relief lasts until she hangs up and I realize she's said good-bye again.