It is the end of an era. Dad’s wife is moving to be near her daughter.
Of course, I’ve been missing her for several years. Because except for the fleeting moments of joy when she looks up and really sees me, the ‘nother mother I once had has been disappearing into dementia for a long time.
She came into our family in a maelstrom of astonishment and anger that created life long rifts in my first family. Could my mother’s friend really marry my father? Had this actually begun years before when her flirtatious glances as she spoke with my father created churning discomfort in my 8-year-old stomach? For me, she marked the end of peaceful family gatherings with my sisters. She became the focus of bitter arguments and polarization. Who was truly to blame for the loss of the life we knew?
I forgave her. It all seems so long ago now.
And she became a dream mother to me. We reveled in heart-to-heart talks peppered with generational and philosophical disagreements. She was always current; from the nitty gritty of bladder infections to her abhorrence of Donald Rumsfeld, she was informed and unafraid to speak her mind. She gave support and admonition in equal doses. She was a pragmatic balance to my idealistic father and made visits to their home enjoyable.
When you were young, she was the mother who gathered you up and carried you home to give me a break. When we visited, her conversation was uninterrupted as she clanged and rattled pans and dishes while cooking a meal and setting the table without fanfare. We weren’t allowed to help or clean up. It was her domain.
She taught me the value of old and worn and comfortable. Cluttered with baskets, bright pieces of fabric and colorful pottery, her lamplit house was a place to sink in and relax.
I’m going over today and she’s gone. I’ll be sorting and sifting and discarding fifty years of memories wrapped up in chipped dishes, animal figurines and pictures of horses torn from magazines hanging more prominently than photos of great-grandchildren. I’ll set aside those things that might spark a warm fire of memory in her grandchildren. I’ll throw away the tattered clothing bought from garage sales in the days when she was able to sail through the tables on display with an eye for the best.
Dismantling this home is letting go of who she is and where she is and fondling bits and pieces of who she was.
I’ll go visit her in her new home. But I’ve lost her. And with her go the final touches and smells of my father…and my childhood…