In February, around Valentine’s Day, my dad called. We talked for a while about stuff: the weather, my daughter, his dog. Then he said, “I did something kind of crazy today.”
“What did you do?”
“I was buying groceries and saw the Valentine’s Day cards, and I bought your Mom a Valentine.”
“I don’t think that is crazy at all. Did you read it to her?”
“Good.” I said. “I still have conversations with her.”
And I do. You don’t just erase someone from your life because she dies, not someone as important as your spouse of 55 years. It doesn’t happen that way. You are continually reminded “She would like this.” Or, “Oh oh, She wouldn’t like that…” Sometimes you smile at the memories; sometimes you grieve at the loss. Most of the time, you do a little of both. That’s what happens when you experience the joy of a truly deep love.
My mom passed away over three years ago, yet when my husband and I were in Chicago recently, I kept having these thoughts that I needed to call my Mom and tell her all about it—the beautiful day and the walk along the Magnificent Mile, the boats on the Chicago River, the view from the hotel, the Chicago Theater, the comedian’s performance, the whole experience, because I knew these were details that she would appreciate. She and Dad used to go to comedy clubs when they were first married; she told me about that. And I think she always missed the city after they moved away from Tampa. She would have enjoyed the stroll down the Magnificent Mile that day.
I had to remind myself that I couldn’t pick up the phone and have that conversation with her. Picking up the phone and talking to my mother about little things is a reflex that, for me, is as involuntary as the knee-jerk reflex, and I doubt that I will ever completely overcome it.
I suspect seeing a display of Valentines cards and buying one for Mom is just as ingrained in my Dad. And that’s okay. It’s okay still to love those people who are gone. It’s okay to wonder what those important people of our lives would think about this or that, especially if their thoughts guide us toward better judgment and decisions. And it’s okay to share a chuckle or inside joke with those people too.
As my husband and I strolled along the bridge spanning the Chicago River, I thought about my mom and dad’s frequent references to “watching the submarine races” over on Davis Island in Tampa. When I was little I thought that you could really watch submarine races. Now I know that they were really talking about apple picking. (One day my daughter will smile when she thinks about all the times she heard her mom and dad mysteriously refer to apple picking in the dead of winter.)
I did call my dad and talk to him about our trip to Chicago, and I e-mailed a picture with the view from our hotel room. And we talked. And, I suspect Mom was in on the conversation.
© 2010 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.