Yesterday was my mom’s forever birthday. Although she’s been gone for eight years, the date January 3rd will forever be her birthday to me. I think that however long I carry on without her, The Sound of Music will always be her movie, The Wind Beneath My Wings will always be her song, and I’ll always have questions I wish I could ask her.
It used to be startling, to want to ask her a question and realize she wasn’t there to answer it. The first time I felt that jolt, we were at her funeral luncheon. “How much of a donation should we make to the Presbyterian Women for putting on the lunch?” my sister asked. Without hesitation I said, “Mom will know.”
My life since then has been peppered intermittently with questions I’ve wanted to ask her. Nothing of particular import, but still… when a recipe I’ve been given says to bake at 400 degrees, but doesn’t specify an amount of time, I think I should be able to consult with the person that gave me the recipe, for clarification purposes.
Did you know that you can Google lists of questions that people have written that they suggest you should ask your parents “now” or “before it’s too late”. These are euphemisms for “before they are dead”. These are not questions that have come to my mind since my mother has been gone.
How did you choose your career and what was your favorite part about it? When my mom was choosing a career her choices pretty much included wife and mother, or wife and mother.
Which of your kids was your favorite? What mother is going to answer this question truthfully? Maybe one with an only child.
What three words represented your approach to parenting and why? Am I still talking to my mom, or am I interviewing nannies?
That’s not to say that there weren’t some good suggestions. My internet searching led me to several stories about families that recorded sessions with parents and grandparents, asking warm and meaningful questions.
- Where did you grow up? What was your neighborhood like?
- Did you work during high school? What was your first job?
- Do you remember your family discussing world events or politics?
Perhaps I am fortunate to have the answer to many of these questions that my mother shared organically during summer vacations to her childhood hometown and through our every-day life experiences. I loved the stories she told of growing up in an Italian-American neighborhood, of life in a town with an active military base during WWII, and of her working at the Soo Theatre, where she met my dad.
Much like the recipe question, my inquiries just pop up randomly while I’m living life. A couple weeks ago when I was writing my blog about New Year’s Resolutions, I mentioned The Impossible Dream. It was one of her favorite songs, but it occurred to me that I don’t know what she liked about it. The music? The lyrics? I know that she had her share of unbearable sorrow and that she tried when her arms were too weary. I think of her and her strength whenever I hear the song, but what did it make her think of when she heard it play? I’d like to ask her. I’d also like to ask her…
- What ever happened to my childhood mug collection?
- Are there any surprise relatives you want to warn us about that we might bump into courtesy of 23andMe?
- What do you think about Trump being president?
Never mind. I don’t need her to be here to know the answer to that last one.
I’ve been sick over the weekend. Who doesn’t miss their mom when they’re sick? If she were here with me now, I would ask her, “Chocolate chip mint or butter pecan? Whitney Houston or Susan Boyle? If I give you a back scratch, can I put my head on your lap… just until I fall asleep.”