I can’t remember what last Mother’s Day was like. There is nothing in my journal about it. I know the lockdown was starting to wear on us all, especially so on my mother.
She watched too much television, never missing the countless interruptions reporting the death toll from Covid and advice on what to do to stay safe. Every day she would rant about how terrible things were in our country, how awful Trump was, and how bad she felt for us — especially the young people she would say. No matter how much older I got, my mother still called me young. But Mother’s Day, a day my brother and I made special for her for years, the last Mother’s Day she would be alive — is a blur.
I remember the last Father’s Day I spent with my father and that was 1986. I remember leaving my share house in Avalon, New Jersey early to spend the day with him, stopping at Avalon Seafood for a big container of she-crab soup and a pound of cooked shrimp and cocktail sauce. I remember the drive in my white Honda Prelude. Dad and I sat in the backyard, gorging ourselves, the classified section of the Bucks County Courier Times spread on the picnic table to catch the shrimp shells and appease my mother.
I remember he had a distant look in his eyes. His health had improved after the stroke the October before and he was walking again with two canes. But what hadn’t left him was the scare that comes when something like that happens to you and you are only 63, the reminder of your own mortality. I never thought that would be the last Father’s Day we would spend together. All I was sure of then was that his stroke had scared me enough to remember to relish every moment I spent with him.
That was 35 years ago and I remember so many details, the smell of the grass, Mom’s vegetable garden and the way the sunlight peeked through the trees, but last year, just twelve months ago and it is all a blur.
But then most of 2020 is a blur. Days and weeks ran into each other. The stress of the pandemic, the election and all the worry — about the world, about our health and about my mother.
I can’t remember Mother’s Day, but I remember the worry that Mom was safe. Her insistance to live out her days in the condo she bought after Dad died had proved a mixed blessing. She was not in one of those assisted living places where the virus was so contagious that visitors were not allowed. I could go to see her, bring her food, and talk — as long as we were six feet apart and I wore a mask. But still, there was that initial period where she would barely open the door to let my brother in to drop off food. That isolation changed her.
I remember the constant worry. But I can’t remember the day.
There is nothing in my journal about that day. There is a lot before and after, how I could tell she was getting ready to go but still was holding on, how she hated getting out of bed in the morning. The woman who would wake up early and as soon as her feet hit the floor was raring to go now found it a struggle to get out of her pajamas.
I think we tried to FaceTime her or maybe that was Easter. I can’t remember. Whenever it was in typical fashion she took one look at herself in the camera and fixated on her appearance. She said it a lot in the last year — how she didn’t recognize herself. I got it. In the last year or so, she had become so consumed with the loss of all the people who had gone before her and of the life she had created, I did not always recognize her.
I can remember the Mother’s Days at the fancy restaurants, at the theater, the spa days, and the ones I would cook her favorite foods. I can remember cards I made in grade school but last year, the last Mother’s Day she was alive — I remember none of that. All I can remember is how much I miss her.
Originally published at https://joannetombrakos.com on May 8, 2021.