I’ve been writing this post in my mind for the last week. It has rolled around and formulated itself in sentences and words. Vague images – like smoke drifting in the air and disappearing – my hands trying to grasp something that is ungraspable. My mother in law has died. It is almost overwhelming to write – I have yet to say those exact words out loud.
People say they are numb when someone they love passes away. I guess that’s true, except it feels like someone is squeezing my chest with their fist and there is a pocket of emptiness where no air flows at the back of my throat. I am moving in slow motion – I cannot think – and for someone who moves fast and is always thinking – it feels like I am walking in mud and not making any progress. My husband is sad and I cannot fix it.
She was the best. I can’t help but smile when I think about her. She was, without a doubt, one of the most genuine, sweet, and kind person I have ever known. We were with her when she passed. For that, I am glad. She didn’t suffer and she went without fanfare, silently, easily. Just as she was in life, she didn’t want to inconvience anyone. A creature of habit – dependable, reliable, and always consistent to the end.
She loved her children as they were, and in a special unique way. Pat, her oldest. Every Christmas – staying up until well past midnight, helping him to wrap presents. She loved him they way a mother loves the first – proudly, strongly. “Sonny.” Lynne, her girl. So special. They were two peas in a pod. “Sister.” Wordless conversations and understanding always flowed between them. Michael, her baby. He was her soft spot. Her rock. “My boy.” The grandchildren – special gifts – she was so proud of them. And Dennis, her husband, he vexed her in the way a spouse does after being together for over 50 years. She loved him – so, so much.
She only cooked with salt and pepper. She loved burnt toast. Her meat was always cooked to death. Fiercely loyal, never said anything bad about anyone. Her handwriting was perfect – exactly they way they taught it in grade school – loopy, connected, neat. We always had birthday cards, Valentine’s cards, Halloween cards, Easter cards. She never sat still – she was always fiddling. Every Saturday, we’d get a call and the first words we’d hear were “Get up!” After we hung up, we’d get the second call about 30 seconds later – “One more thing.” She wore sweatshirts and turtlenecks in the summer because she was always cold. She thought I was a strange creature, but she loved me like one of her own. We always got turkey tetrazzini the week after Thanksgiving. Particular about her tinsel, she just smiled the first time I launched a glob of it on her tree like it was New Years confetti – and quietly fixed it after I left. Every summer, we went to the beach. The same beach she had gone to as a child. She loved my blueberry cheesecake. The girls always got a new ornament each year. She loved to show us old pictures. She was quiet, lived without fanfare, and touched so many.
She was always tickled when I sewed something. “Aren’t you clever,” she would remark with a smile. She bought my first serger, gave me vintage patterns from her mother in law and her mother, supplied me with the jumbo Mack-daddy Gutterman thread set, bought my dress form, and always delighted in my adventures. My stocking stuffer this year for Christmas was replacement blades for my rotary cutter – she always knew what I needed.
In the days after her death, I needed to keep busy. To move my hands and quiet my mind. I sewed. A shirt. Slowly, properly. Topstitched. Pressed. I cried. I grieved. Topstitched more. Tears. Button holes. Buttons. I thought about her.
My grieving shirt. It’s beautiful, simple, and all of the details are just-so. Just they way she would have done it. With care, perfectly, and in an un-fussy way. I will wear it and think of her – smiling, and saying, “Aren’t you clever.”