|Me and "Boy"|
Apparently, I carried the doll around in my left arm, right thumb firmly corked in my mouth. It's a wonder I didn't need braces. We went through multiple "Boy" dolls and my mother would cover the original with cloth as it wore out, hoping to extend Boy's life. When the thing was falling apart, Mom would save up more Eskimo Pie box tops and order me a new one, which I would break in.
After my dad came back from Vietnam and got a job, I would get up early with my mom while she made him breakfast (I'm informed my breakfast was Cap'n Crunch) and then she and I would crawl back into her bed, so that she could get a little more sleep. I'm sure Boy came with me, as my thumb didn't know what to do without that stuffed doll in the other hand. Although I don't remember this story, I'm sure that this was one of the times that I felt it was me and my mom against the world.
I felt safe. Loved. Protected.
I loved my dad, but I worshiped my mom.
She got me through the year he was in Vietnam. She helped me remember him because he left when I was a year old. My dad came and went during the years - working long hours and traveling - but Mom was always there.
45 years later, my mom lay in their king sized bed in South Carolina, riddled with cancer, but determined not to be an invalid or a burden on anyone. True to her personality, she would be independent as long as possible. But I know she could see that the end was coming.
"Get in," she offered.
She pulled the covers aside for me and I slid under the covers and as close to her as I dared, not wanting to hurt her. Cancer had taken so much from her and would continue to cause unimaginable pain. I didn't want to make it worse.
I was overwhelmed with joy that she wanted me to snuggle with her. To be her baby one last time.
Boy was a security blanket of the past, but the closeness of a mother and daughter at the other end of her life was the same as if I were two years old.
I was looking for as many of these moments that I could store away in my head for my "after." We were all making memories and I wanted more good memories than bad. I wanted memories of my mom as she truly was; not as she was after cancer had taken her leg and her ability to move or take care of herself.
Dad came in and said, "You're having a slumber party." We smiled.
Lying there in bed with my mom, we didn't really talk. Mostly she let me get close to her physically, which was something I needed, something that showed me how much she loved me.
At the end, like most people do, she had realized that family was the most important thing. That you can have something you love to do, but that is not the same as having a family who cares and supports you and is willing to take care of you in your last and most vulnerable days - when you are leaving this world.
"I wish it was me."
"No, honey, you have to take care of Justin and the boys."
"I don't want you to go."
"I'm not afraid of dying."
"I know, but I'm going to miss you so much. I don't know how to live without you."
And then someone rang the doorbell and came in and shattered that beautiful moment with my mom. She meant so much to others, but I was selfish and I didn't want to share her, except with my dad and my brother.
She gave so much to others.
But, In that short moment, she was focused only on me. And that bookend moment will be the one I treasure and take out to hold carefully from time to time, to remember how much she loved me and how much she meant to me.
There is no bond like that between a mother and child.
Boy had left me at some point and I learned how not to miss him. Now Mom was leaving and I was 48 years old. How many years would it take for me to learn how to live without my mother?
I will never learn how to live without my mother. I feel adrift...lost at sea. I'm told it gets better with time but you never really get over it. I know that's true. You just learn to keep breathing until it's not quite so painful.
It may get old for others to hear, but I miss my mom so much it's hard to breathe.