20 years. That is how long it has been since we spoke. Since you gave me advice. Since you were part of my life. That last time is vivid in my memory. A hot July evening in the kitchen. The faded, dirty brown linoleum. The white walls. The cheap brown table. You were in a wheel chair; body wasted. Hair so red, so short. That damn bright red seat cushion that gave less than concrete. The pain in your eyes haunting, feverish. The black canker of disease devouring you. Your only grasp on life; hard stubborn will. And love. And maybe fear. Not for you, but for me.
I let you go that night. I told you I would be fine. I lied. Every word a lie. I wasn’t alright. I’m not alright. I survive. I’ve survived nearly half my life without you. Without a mother. Without my mother. There are days I hardly think of you, but not many. Mostly I wonder how it would be if cancer hadn’t destroyed you. Eaten you. I wonder what you would teach my child. My daughter with red hair. My daughter with your sweet, kind demeanor. My daughter who you never met. Who will never meet you.
It has been 20 years since my whispered request of “mom,” was answered. It has been 20 good, hard, and bad years. 20. A number that is impossible. A number that is so very unfair. A number that represents the years spent without the benefit of your quiet, beautiful wisdom. A span of two decades that passed like a long weekend, but has somehow felt like an eternity. I have nothing but memory—
That warm autumn day we took the bus to Safeway—why we didn’t drive I will never remember—eating that package of Snowballs on the grass berm waiting for the bus.
That day I picked a package of gum—Big Red in my memory—from the shelf and pocketed it without paying. You made me return it. To the store manager no less, and apologize, and promise never to do it again.
That day you purchased me a cheap plastic Batman Halloween costume before taking me to Dad’s shop to show it off.
That day you stood up to the school bus driver for me.—
It has been 20 years Mom. You have been gone so very long, but still, if I can find silence. A quiet place. If I concentrate. If I want to badly enough, I can still hear you. I can feel the gentle timbre of your voice like a summer breeze. I can feel your pride, joy, sorrow, and disappointment. You are gone Mom, but everything you taught me. Everything you were is still here. It is with me. It is with my family. It is with my little girl.
It has been 20 years Mom, and still I miss you. Still I mourn you. Still I love you.