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We’re beginning to clean my mom’s house now. She left us a week ago, and we’ve each had our chance to go back to her place alone and sit in her chair to conjure up the proper attitude for this part of the healing process. The rest we’ll do together.

The “estate” isn’t large. Mom’s home is a unit in a retirement community, with neighbors who quickly became good friends, all watching out for each other. None of us can keep the place because of age restrictions, and to tell the truth, we wouldn’t want to. It’s just a structure, and can be sold without hurt. The part that is Mom is inside.

There are no ghosts there. Mom’s presence is all around us in the dresser drawers that hold camisoles laden with the lavender scent she loved, in the chocolate she hid in the freezer to avoid temptation, even in the medicines that she doesn’t need to take anymore. But it’s a peaceful presence, overall

We touch her things and smile at the pictures in our heads knowing that the memory is the important part. My sister doesn’t need another muffin pan, but it will find a place in her home where it will bring up every once in a while the thought of zucchini muffins slathered with cream cheese frosting. I’ll put on Mom’s soft, fleecy robe in the cold mornings and it will warm my own heart to recall how she cuddled in it, waiting for the water to boil to brew her coffee. And when these things turn to rust and rags, the memories will still be with us.

It’s hard to write about my mom without drowning my readers in treacle. I can’t find anything sour or bitter to put in her description. She wasn’t without flaws, nobody is. But you’d have to search a long time to find anyone who didn’t consider her a true friend, a compassionate and generous person, a trustworthy confidante . . . and a damn good cook. She cared about people, and they knew it.

We’re beginning to clean my mom’s house now, but we’re not, now or ever, clearing her from our lives.

I’ll see you again, after the commercial.

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