I thought about my mother today. It was easier than it was at this time last year. I am coming upon the 3rd anniversary of her passing. I remember because it was May 5, 2011, Cinco de Mayo, a day of celebration for much of the world, the worst day of my life for me.
You cannot predict a memory. You never realize when one is in the making until it is too late to change it. The randomness of the recollection is what makes it so profound. What renders an event something you will retain as a memory for the rest of your life? Your world evolves and changes incessantly. Every single moment is singular, distinctive and unique. Every sight, sound, smell and emotion becomes a part of that particular memory. It all fits together like a filmstrip or an old and faded photo album sitting on a bookshelf. Often it lies there for years even decades, lingering, waiting, and dwelling there in a patient state of perpetual readiness, anticipating that opportune moment when it is most necessary or convenient for one to retrieve it.
The happiest times that I shared with my mother, be that during the winter holidays or in her living room watching silly comedies as we laughed so hard that tears fell from our eyes, came back. Those were followed by those poignant memories of my sister and I, sitting beside her grief-stricken, as she wasted away in a hospital bed. For a time, I could not separate the two. The good brought on the bad as though they were linked together as intensely as thunder and lightning, or as stubbornly as peanut butter and Jelly. I could not enjoy the good without the bad creeping in and taking over, so I shut them both out. I stopped thinking about my mother. I avoided photographs, and steadfastly walked past the office cupboard, which was filled with snapshots and Polaroid’s, sentimental birthday cards and encouraging letters she had sent to me in college. I “accidentally” misplaced the silver framed photo that had sat on my desk for several years before she passed. The same picture I had glanced at literally thousands of times while I toiled away at my computer making deals and writing papers.
And then one day while clearing a spot on my desk, I came upon the framed photo of her that I had somehow managed to bury under papers on my desk, and the memories came flooding back. They began to bounce and ricochet inside of my head. Faster than I could comprehend or begin to grasp. There was no time to sort or organize, catalogue or classify. I collapsed down into my caramel colored office chair and stared at the surreptitious photograph. My hand shook just the tiniest bit as I reached over and tugged open the little cupboard above my desk. My mother’s own personal photo album fell into my lap. I had not had the heart or the courage to open this album after she had passed, and now here it was, in my hands imploring me to do just that. Feeling quite vulnerable, I ran my fingers across the faded cover, deliberating my choice to open the old book or just put it back.
I opened it. I saw my mother’s smiling face holding my brother when he was but a baby. I spotted a photo of her at the kitchen table, laughing so hard that her eyes were just slits perched on top of her bright red cheeks, and I saw the snapshot of us, together smiling at the camera with our arms interlocked. It was then that I realized that seeing those pictures made me smile. They forced the last memories that I had of my mother in that hideous hospital gown to the deepest, darkest part of my brain while pushing these happier times to the front of my consciousness. I began to understand that I needed to see these photos and share her memories. I recognized that hiding her away was only hurting me. I reached over and dusted off the silver photo frame which surrounded my favorite picture of her. I put it back right next to me on my desk, where I would see her every day and secretly thank her for giving me the inner strength to do so.