I can’t believe the Big Cheese´s mom left this world behind a year ago, the day after Mother’s Day. Whenever we drive past her fancy, crenellated old co-op on Connecticut Avenue, the twins say, there’s Grammy’s Castle! They’re still waiting for her to not be dead any more; we have long funny/sad talks about it.
I actually chat with her fairly regularly in my dreams. In the last one she threw a party, and all her girlfriends and family members were there. Later I found her resting on her daybed, exhausted but happy, surrounded by grandkids and watching the show going on around her. You could tell she was really ill. Everyone knew it. They came to the party to be with her and say goodbye. I sat down next to her in my dream and held her face in my hands, and I said: Thank you for being you. Thank you for all the wonderful things you´ve given me. Thank you for lending me your son. And then I woke up.
I have these dreams all the time; I´m not complaining. My mind manages to create a scene, or even an entire day, in which the tone of our relationship is pitch-perfect. Recent examples: I decide to buy a trendy, moderately expensive handbag. She urges me to take that money and buy a classic bag instead. Or: we´re at a grocery store, and we´re all done shopping, and I go get the car, at which point I realize, double-parked and tying up traffic, that she´s gone back in for an avocado or something. A big, fat argument ensues. The end is always the same: I wake up and realize, phew – I didn´t really have that argument with her! And I´ll never have another one. And when do I start missing her a little less?
My guess is I´m supposed to resolve this with some Western-style therapy. But I´m longing for something else, you know? I have this dim idea that in other cultures there´d be talk of restless spirits needing appeasement. God knows she was restless; why would it be any different in the afterlife? I´m only a few blocks from her burial niche at our church. Maybe I should be taking her offerings (vodka martinis, potato chips.) Maybe she´s mad that I failed to talk the Big Cheese into putting that liter bottle of Popov in the vault with her. She´s tucked in next to her husband, but I think strewing her ashes along the miracle mile in Chevy Chase between Saks and Neiman Marcus would have been a completely legitimate alternative. In fact, if the developers over there have any sense, they´ll get busy and build a columbarium next to Cartier instead of that stupid pocket-park.
Don´t get me wrong — I don´t want these dreams to go away. They´re very, very funny, and they give me that warm feeling of actually having a conversation with her. But I wonder if I´m screwing something up. So far my plans for appeasement have included wearing her clothes and jewelry out more, sometimes to the sorts of places they´re used to frequenting. I had a night out in her Chanel black lace cocktail dress, which I realized was a) amazingly constructed, with beautiful interior boning to hold the strapless bodice up under the matching lace jacket where it´s supposed to be, and b) basically see-through, if you look at it the right way. I laughed and teased the Big Cheese – did you realize your mother went out in public dressed like this?!
My father still lives in the house I grew up in, right next door to the cemetery where we buried my mother 20 years ago, not long after Mother’s Day, and where all her kin are buried. I drop by and visit my mother when I´m over there every week. I´m not so dim that I can´t see that losing my mother-in-law was like losing my mother in some ways, but I don´t tell my mom that. I don´t want to hurt her feelings; who wants to hear that from their kid? Sitting there on the damp grass gives me a way to focus, to talk to her. It comforts me. She missed being there in person for my major life events. I stopped by her grave the day I married the Big Cheese and left her the flowers I’d carried to the altar. I´ve taken her Easter lilies, and birthday bouquets, and garland at Christmas, and flowers from the church after my babies were baptized. We fought all the time when I was a teenager and I said hateful things; raising me must have hurt like hell. I hope my daughters don´t treat me that way, but on some level I´d deserve it. It´s always great seeing my mother-in-law in my dreams, but I wish my mom stopped by more often to visit too. I really miss her.
While you’re reading this I’m trooping around England somewhere; I miss the blog too, no joke. I’ll see you next week.