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February 15, 2015 by 8junebugs

Dear Ma–

Today, you would have been 62.

It’s been a little over 6 years since you died. I recently had to tell your oldest niece on Dad’s side that you were gone. We got back in touch, and although someone had told her you were sick, I’m not sure anyone told her you’d died.

She still calls you “Jeannie.”

I miss you a little all the time, and more on some days than on others.

I wanted to call you the other day when your grandson’s tiny voice piped up behind me, one beat after me, and said, “Sthit.” Twice.

I wanted to call you last week to tell you that L quit smoking! Oh, you loved that boy. He’s lovable on his own, but he was also a most excellent friend to me during a pretty crappy time, which made him irresistible to you. (The irony of not getting to share this news with you because of smoking is hard to swallow.)

I really wanted to call you in November when I found out that Angelo died in 2012. He wasn’t just a lovely father-in-law — he was also particularly gracious and kind to you. He and Rose were so touched by your efforts to include them in the wedding shower that they cut their vacation short and jumped through hoops to accept the invitation. When the rehearsal dinner came along, he invited you and Chris to sit at their family table…which was just like him, really. He never treated me as anything less than a daughter, and he decided you were family, too. When his sympathy card arrived, the first of so many and not two weeks before my alliance with his son was officially severed, I wasn’t surprised, and couldn’t have been more touched.

(And, you know, not everyone accepts that you can still care about a family that you opted to leave. Am I allowed to mourn someone whose son I divorced? You would have understood that.)

I wanted to stay at your house in July. Boy, that would have been easier! The logistics for visiting Vermont are harder now, or we made them extra hard by trying to get Dad and Chris there, too. On the other hand, I don’t know if our trip would then have included the Cape, and that truly was a treat. But a week of time for you to play with Grayson would have been hard to cut short.

I wish I could fly you out here for his 2nd birthday.

I wish you could know your grandson. You were right — we do make pretty babies. He’s a handsome little devil, and he’s whip-smart and very, very funny. He informed me the other night that he has “TWO eyes.” He’s started climbing up on the changing table when he would like a new diaper, telling us “peepee” or “poop.” (This is not always accurate, and yes, we have a potty on standby.) He knows who’s in his family: “Mama. Daddy. Brah!” (Brah! is Rodney. That was one of his first words, and it’s never changed.) He is also a bossy little monkey…I mean, he demonstrates leadership qualities! He has recently learned the power of “please” and knows it as The Magic Word.

He is so helpful and kind for an almost-2-year-old. “Can you help So-and-So?” is almost always the best way to get him to do something, or to distract him from some minor distress. We got him to be more careful about dropping (/throwing) food on the floor by explaining that Rodney would get a booboo in his belly if he ate food off the floor; now he chastises us if we drop anything. (“Brah! Booboo. Ow.”) When he was fussing about our plumber being in the house, we said, “Kristen came to fix our toilet. Can you help her find it?” Off he went — he grabbed her hand and escorted her to the bathroom. And so far, he remains inappropriately okay with sharing.

I think he probably gets this from you. You helped everyone who crossed your path, if you could.

Last year, your youngest niece on Dad’s side decided on a cosmetology track for her final year of high school. This would have delighted you, and I told her so, even though she doesn’t remember you. And her mom chimed in and said, yes, you would have been tickled and “would have helped any way you could.”

Truer words were never spoken.

I wish I could talk to you about some of the friends we’ve made here. You would LOVE, in particular, the amazing women on my rowing team. When I’m at practice, I wonder sometimes if this is how you felt about softball. (I don’t wonder about bowling. I have my own bowling memories.) And I wonder if watching Grayson grow up around the kids from our Mom Sorority is a little like what Sunday afternoons were like when we kids were all small and tumbling around.

When we were back in Vermont, I meant to get a picture of Peyton, Grayson, and Calvin together, too — they’re closer in age than even Bri, Steph, and Chris were. Alas. Toddlers.

I wish you could know me as a mom. I like to think it would look a little familiar. It feels familiar sometimes, like when Grayson chokes on some water and I immediately ask if it’s got bones in it. Things just come out of my mouth sometimes and Graham does a double-take — why would you ever ask a child if his water has bones in it?

Because that’s what you asked us.

I frequently wish I could talk to you about this mom stuff, because I know you loved your career. I know there were long hours. I often find myself wondering how you did it, and then I remember that, when we were little, Grand was next door and Steve and Donna were over the hill and Memere and Pepere were, what? 3 miles away? And your commute almost never involved parking lots with time-based limitations…or more than 2 stoplights. And we didn’t even have call waiting until I was 10 or so, to say nothing of Twitter (and it’s best we say nothing of Twitter).

I’m having a harder time with your birthday this year than I had with the anniversary of your death last November, and I have no idea why. I think, maybe, that grief is a lot like an unset boat. Whether it’s by a wake or a wave, sometimes you just wind up with salt in your eyes.

Happy birthday, Ma. I love you.



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