Not long after Hurricane Sandy came calling, this thought flew into my mind: If my mother were still alive, she’d be worrying about me now. That, of course, is what mothers do. First, they worry about us. Later, we remember how they used to worry about us, and miss them all the more.
My mother never quite managed to adjust to the fact that I lived in New York City. A year or so after I moved east, she turned on the evening news and heard that there’d been a subway shooting earlier in the day. She immediately called to make sure that I was all right. Needless to say, I was far from the scene of the crime, but I understood at once that her concern, if misplaced, was no less real for its absurdity, and I reassured her that all was well. Eventually she figured out that New York was a very big place, but she never stopped worrying about me. It happened that I was visiting her in Smalltown, U.S.A., on 9/11. I can’t imagine what agonies she would have endured had I been anywhere but there.
A few weeks ago I took reluctant note of the fact that my memories of my mother have been colored by the suffering that she endured in her last days:
Of course I miss my mother–I adored her–but when I think of her now, I usually think of the last couple of years of her life, which were happy only at odd and increasingly infrequent intervals. It requires a powerful act of will for me to summon up the countless good times that came before….Mostly, though, I don’t think of her all that often, save in brief flashes. The veil, it seems, has descended.
I long for the sweetness of those inaccessible memories, but I also know that no mere act of will can restore them to me. They’ll come when they come–or not at all. Perhaps, then, it’s an encouraging sign that I now find myself thinking of something as silly as the long-ago night when my anxious mother called me up after watching the news.