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Added: Sunday, May 8th 2022 at 8:23am by epiphanettes

I’ll say it out loud: I miss my mother.

Actually, I miss both parents. They’ve been gone a relatively long time, but there are still moments when their absence is palpable.

Today is Mothers’ Day, a holiday that can be traced to pagan times, when women mourned the fallen soldiers who were their sons, husbands and brothers. In the United States, President Woodrow Wilson decreed in 1914 that the second Sunday in May would be set aside to honor all mothers, and a commercial frenzy followed. One can no longer celebrate Mother’s Day without cards, candy, flowers, and Sunday brunches, a full panoply of doubtful events punctuated by five-dollar sentiments from Hallmark.

My mother died on March 10, 1992, in Paris. She passed away of liver cancer at the American Hospital in Neuilly, the very place where she’d given me birth some four decades earlier. She was stalwart and, I learned later, never told her husband—my father—the true extent of her illness. When she died, his incipient Alzheimer’s took an immediate turn for the worse. He couldn’t believe she was gone. He searched their apartment on the Rue Lamartine and when he couldn’t find her, sought her in the streets, persuaded she had gone to the boulangerie, or the epicerie as she did almost daily.

My mother was an amazing and impossible woman. She drank in moderation but used far too many prescription drugs. I suspect she was prey to the panic attacks that occasionally lay me low, and I remember a rare moment when she displayed how terrified she was of being alone.

I was traveling on business and had managed a layover in Paris. When I got to their home, I discovered my father had left their apartment in the morning to do what he often did, to wander the streets of his favorite city in search of undiscovered nooks and crannies.

When he didn’t come home by lunchtime, my mother panicked and called the police. When he had not returned by three, she decided he was dead. The following hours were ones of desperation during which she resisted any attempt at logic or consolation. It was the only time I ever saw her fall completely apart.

When my father eventually came back in the later afternoon, having no idea of the drama he’d caused, my mother slapped him once hard, then fled to the bathroom and consumed enough Xanax to sleep for a full day. My father rubbed his cheek, asked me what had happened, and when he understood, attempted to console her. It didn’t work. She was asleep and unresponsive, which in turn panicked him. It was an odd, unsettling couple of days.

After my mom died, I bought a weeping willow tree and planted it in my back yard. It was small when I first dug a hole for it—less than six feet tall, a thin sapling, almost leafless and scrawny. Over the years, it grew and towered over the rest of the landscape. It overlooked a small pond I had put in earlier, and provided shade. Birds built many nests. It became the favored haunt of a large woodpecker whose staccato tapping marked the hours of the day. The willow’s waterfall branches almost reached the ground. For years, my mom’s treewas the highlight of my back yard.

Then one day something happened. It was a windless afternoon; I was in my living room and from the window I saw the tree list, hesitate, and crash to the ground. The top of it fell within inches of my garage roof, and the trunk missed everything of importance—other trees, bushes, a bench, a small table, and a couple of chairs.

Over the next few days, I trimmed the tree’s branches but left the trunk where it lay; it bisected my back yard in an elegant sort of way. Years passed; the trunk slowly disintegrated and in 2009, I gathered what was left and in a small, personal ceremony, scattered bark and rotting wood beyond my back fence.

For a couple of years, the grass didn’t grow where the tree trunk had lain, but eventually all traces of the willow were gone save for a small mound where the tree stood. I planted perennials there that come out in June.

I miss my mom.


User Comments

Your blog really drew me in.  Sounds like you had a good relationship with both your Mum and Dad.  Your Mum obviously wanted to shield your Dad from the truth about her illness.  Such a nice thought planting the weeping willow tree.  Shame it is not still there.  l have to admit at the end of your blog l had a tear in my eye.

I bet you do. {#friend.gif}


Sweetness here.  Sorely needed too.  Thanks.

What a beautiful write. I love it when someone writes well enough that they can convey such love, compassion, and nostalgia, with honest emotion without falling into the "sappy" trap. Kudos.

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