A Misplaced Memory

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.

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16 comments

  1. Donna says:

    Reality check Alana! I’m happy to hear your mother’s photo album finally fell into your lap. She’ll always be with you. You are a part of her. She had to give you some sign, and threw the book at you. How would you feel if you were stuck in a stuffy cupboard? Mother’s are smart like that. She guided you through your life and held your hand when you were sad and frightened. How could you have tucked that memory away for so long? With every good there is a bad. With every happy there is sad. It all depends what you chose to do with it. Healing takes time. Now you can move forward with your Mother’s memory. Have you ever looked in a mirror in passing and say, “hi mom”? I find myself doing just that. Some days I look just like my mom and I’m very surprise to see her in the mirror. It’s comforting and makes me smile. No, I’m not crazy. We are our mother’s memory keepers. As long as we have our mother’s memory, she is never truly gone. It been 6 years for my mother but it still feels like I lost her yesterday. The hurt doesn’t go away with time. That’s what people tell you.. Don’t believe it. I just tell myself,, I am my mother and proud of it. Enjoy your photo album and hug her picture now and then. She will always hug back guaranteed.

  2. Alana says:

    Thank you Donna….getting to the point of acceptance was so hard. I just could not face it….I miss her so. I feel her with me now though…pushing me to write and chase this dream. And I shall.

  3. Donna says:

    Acceptance is difficult. One step forward will finally give you the peace within you. You will always miss your mother. Hugs to you Alana. You have had many turns in your life and you are doing wonderful with your decisions. This blog is a lifesaver for many of us and I’m sure for yourself also. Thank you for being who you are and sharing your life with us. You are a writer. You just need the right person to discover you. It will happen.

  4. Jeannette says:

    Alana dearest,

    I also lost my precious maman in July 2012. I feel for you….

    I have to say that I have never ever read such a complete and vivid description of what is a memory. I’m an avid reader. Your writing style captures me as it does (and will) capture many more I am sure!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, your experiences, your talent and yourself! Wow!

    Your new friend 🙂

    Jeannette
    P.S. I remember your promise 😉

  5. Cat says:

    Alana, I am a newbie to you and your poignant writing. What a breath of fresh air. Your story about the memories with your mom was very touching. I believe there are no coincidences in life. At 62, I am blessed to have a healthy relationship with my mom, 84. Everyday is a gift. I wish you continued healing and happiness on your quest. >^..^<

  6. Margaret Davis says:

    I lost my Mom in 1986, I was 42, married with four kids, three of whom were adults. The loss is unbearable, I truly thought I would never get out from under the grief. I gave up caring about me, I gave up caring about all that was important to me and wallowed in the depths of grief for several months. Finally one night I dreamed of her and in that dream she was so real, and we laughed heartily at what she said in the dream, it makes no sense to me then or now, but in the dream it made sense and we carried on just laughing. (She had a wonderful sense of humor) To me, that was my message from her to continue life as a happy person, to get out of this muck, to feel the sunshine again, to stop the crying. I miss her so to this day, but I know that we will meet again and that is a wonderful comforting thought. There is no one who can replace your mother, but you can do all that you can, to try to live as she wanted you to live, whole and happy, that’s all that most mothers want.

  7. Mel says:

    We will ever miss the ones we have loved. Memories, however, are intended to keep all of those experiences alive. The grand, fun ones make us smile, laugh and reminisce. The difficult ones remind us of how they have impacted us and (hopefully) what we have learned both from the person and the experience. Be blessed that you will continue to hold those memories dear to you. They are yours and no one can ever take them from you. So peruse the photos often and Celebrate each memory!

  8. Denise says:

    Alana,
    I lost my mother on November 5, 2010. For 11 months following, I had lost my way. Not knowing this at the time, I moved away from everyone and everything that would remind me of her. I lost contact with my father and siblings. I created a gap between me and my children. I pushed everything away in favor of moving to the other side of town into a very bad relationship. I was self-destructive. Retrospectively, I needed to grieve, but i didn’t know how. Grieving was foreign to me. It is a different process for everyone. I didn’t think anyone could relate to what I was going through. As far as I was concerned, no one had ever lost their mother before,…EVER. HA Of course I was wrong. Wrong about so many things. It is not wrong to look like my mother. It is not wrong to act like my mother. It is not wrong for my family to want to come to me, because inherently, I am my mother. I have since realized that it is the greatest gift to be like my mother. Almost 4 years later, and I am finally sharing stories of our “memories” together. I thank you Alana, for giving me the forum to post my story as a reply to yours. I am an avid reader of your blog. Keep up with posting the details of each moment of your life. We all want and need someone to relate too. Thank you!! <3

  9. Alana says:

    Denise….wow…such a heartfelt message. I understand though…I went through it myself. There is nothing quite as interminable and profound as the relationship between mother and daughter. I miss her every single day of my life. Bless you in your coping with your loss. She will always live on…in you.

  10. anne says:

    I know the feeling…felt closer to my dad than anybody in life. He was a super great dude. I had a hard time looking into his box of memories….lots of letters telling me I need to keep in better contact, how he missed me while I was on my military journey and how I had interesting family members who I should keep in contact with (Bill, Alana, Diana) even though he didn’t

  11. Alana says:

    Wow Anne…my heart skipped a beat when I realized this was you! We should learn by these past mistakes and get together! I have not seen you since you were little…what a waste of time…what a shame. We have such a small family. Hope to speak to you one day soon. Much love and respect, Aunt Alana 🙂

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