Lately, a line from “You’ve Got Mail” is on infinite repeat in my head – “…I was decorating my Christmas tree and unwrapping funky ornaments made of Popsicle sticks, and missing my mother so much I almost couldn’t breathe…”
That pang of loss hits at the expected times. Holidays. Anniversaries. Birthdays. Sometimes it hits for no reason at all. Hearing rain pelt my kitchen window. Opening a can of black olives. Ironing a shirt. Just the daily bits of life bring Mom’s laugh, her habits, or her touch to mind, and I mourn her all over again. Especially so this summer. We have a wedding coming up. Mom and Dad won’t be there.
A WEDDING! Up ‘til now, milestone moments in raising up our boys have been the usual. First teeth, first steps, first surgeries, first days of school, first dates, graduations from high school, university and even post-graduate schools. Well, maybe all of those aren’t ‘the usual’ but my point is simply that we’ve had a few milestones in raising our three sons, just like my mom did – just like everyone experiences. As the boys grew up, all of us grew accustomed to Grandma and Grandpa being absent for many of the milestones – living over 1000 miles away from my folks made the visits sporadic and the ‘special moments’ were often shared over the phone rather than in person. The distance is far greater now, and the absence for the ultimate milestone – Matt’s wedding day – well. I am simply wishing that Mom and Dad could be there.
Nothing says ‘milestone’ like ‘wedding day.’ And of course, if we’re girls, we start planning our weddings early. I think my first iteration took shape soon after my sister got married and I was headed for 7th grade. That one had a decidedly purple cast – lilacs and sappy music and a towering cake that included hideous purple roses in the corners. Then, there was the ‘peach’ version of my early high school years. Every girl plans and re-plans her wedding. My ‘for realsies’ version included nothing of my earlier imaginings. Oh, there were flowers, and cake, and dinner and dancing to be sure. Thankfully, a real groom showed up to take the hand that my dad placed in his. And he’s been holding it ever since.
My mom and dad were married – the happily ever after kind – for 56 years. Jeff and I will celebrate 29 years in September. Matt and his lovely bride are still in the wedding planning stages – theirs will be a black and white affair. I have managed to break the cardinal ‘mother of the groom’ rule – I hate the thought of wearing beige. So, in a nod to my 7th grade self, I am wearing purple! As with most weddings, there will likely be a bit of drama, a bit of panic, good food, celebratory dancing, toasts to the newlyweds and not a few tears. After all, this milestone brings with it memories of weddings past, and for many of us, the realization that, while weddings are indeed wonderful, they are also mere, fleeting moments. Marriage is the point of a wedding, after all. And marriage, while wonderful too, is hard – and lifelong.
Wisely, Mom stayed out of our marriage business. She never took sides, never offered unsolicited commentary, never offered a ‘way out’ when things, as they inevitably do, grew tough. (oh, I have much to learn from her example still!) She did cheer us on, offered unflagging support, and remained crazy in love with Dad. Their marriage became the model for mine in that I knew I wanted it to be forever – until death parts us. And therein lies the heartache as Matt & Victoria’s wedding day approaches.
Death parts us. The final milestone.
I know that Mom and Dad would delight in watching Matt take Victoria to be his lawfully wedded wife. And I know they would love her – for the joy she brings to Matt’s life and the love she lavishes on him. My parents loved Jeff first for the promise he made to love me. And so it goes. We love. We marry. We raise children who will someday find someone of their own to love and to cherish ‘til death do them part.
I’ve been ‘missing my mother so much I almost couldn’t breathe.’ Because she’s going to miss the first wedding in our family. But what she taught us, because of how she loved my dad, will be in Matt and Victoria’s marriage, even though they’ll miss the wedding. And all of us will be joined together at a glorious wedding feast still to come. A milestone not to be missed.
At our wedding reception my mom and a dear friend of hers sang Irving Berlin’s “Always” to Jeff and me as our departure loomed close. The part of that song that I can still hear her singing says,
I’ll be loving you, oh Always
With a love that’s true Always.
When the things you’ve planned
Need a helping hand,
I will understand Always.
Days may not be fair Always,
That’s when I’ll be there Always.
Not for just an hour,
Not for just a day,
Not for just a year,
And though Mom & Dad won’t be with us on August 11, 2012 in body, in spirit they are with us, loving us. Always.