Kisses

February 9, 2015

On the day of my mother’s memorial service, I placed a photograph of her at the Quaker Meeting House where we held the service, and then later back at my house, where family and friends gathered for comfort and remembrance. The next day, I looked at the photograph and noticed the imprint of lips on the frame’s glass, right over my mother’s lips. A kiss. “Look,” I said to my boyfriend, “someone kissed my mother’s picture.”     “It was you,” he said, perhaps recognizing the lips, or just knowing how often I had been kissing my mother and how I continued to long to kiss her now that she was gone.

I was never big on kissing. Wipe your mouth. Dry your lips. These were the instructions given by me as a child to my mother and father, or anyone else who wanted to kiss me. And it always seemed like a lot of people wanted to kiss me. I tolerated the kisses, but barely. Hello. Good-bye. Good night. Thank you.

My first real kiss from a boy was the stuff of my nightmares. Forget “Dry your lips,” I wish he had just kept his mouth closed. It was like falling into a well. Worse. When I picture it, I think of him as an open-mouthed hippopotamus, all tongue and teeth and wetness. That’s a story for another time, but to any boy who ever kissed me, it was not you. It happened in South Carolina and I never saw him again after he told me that Southern girls were faster and more fun.

When my own children were born, I understood the animalistic fervor to want to kiss them constantly. I called my mother from the hospital after my first child was born and, through hormone-enhanced sobs, told her, “Now I know how much you love me.”  I understood why hamsters ate their babies. While there is probably some scientific explanation as to why they really do it, I always think of those mommy and daddy hamsters as just getting carried away. My children were so delicious I just wanted to eat them up.

When my mother became sick and language was no longer our primary means to communicate, I began to use touch to communicate my love for her. I tickled her and stroked her and kissed her. When she could no longer speak, she would touch my hair, pull my face towards hers and we would kiss. In her last months of life, she got more kisses from me than I had given her in 50 years before.

On my mother’s last day, I once again lay down next to her, but she was so fragile, I could not stay there long. I sat next to her on the bed and I kissed her face and her hands, her closed eyes and her cheeks. She was wearing a hospital gown, and the gown gapped slightly, exposing a small triangle of her skin right above her heart and slightly below her shoulder. I placed my lips on this smooth skin, untouched by age or illness, and I kissed her there.

In the week that followed her passing, I became obsessed by that kiss. I kept thinking about that spot, above her heart and below her shoulder. I had not just kissed her. I think I licked her. I had nestled my face into that spot and wanted to bite her. I wanted to swallow her up. It was primal and it shocked me. What was it about this spot? Why was it different from her hands, her lips, her cheeks, her closed eyes?

I paced around my room until my eyes fell on a life-sized baby doll that I had found in my mother’s apartment months before and had once brought to the nursing home. I picked up the doll and held it the way a mother holds her child, and its little plastic mouth settled right in that spot, above my heart and just below my shoulder. And then I knew. I had come full circle. The place where I had felt most safe and loved as an infant, in my mother’s arms, with my nose and mouth pressed to her skin, just above her heart and below her shoulder, that place was calling me back to say good-bye. Good-bye, good night, my sweet, beautiful mother. And thank you for loving me so well.

Scan 45

Blizzard

February 2, 2015

For days they warned us

That the snow would fall

That the winds would blow

That the world would come to an end.

 

Their forecasts

Their stupid forecasts

Kept us at home

To keep us safe

 

But they kept us away

From you.

 

And finally the snow did fall

And the winds did blow

But not so much

And the world did not come to an end

 

Except it did.

Because the phone rang

And the doctor said you were gone

You had slipped away

Quietly

Peacefully

As the snow came down

And the winds blew

And our tears fell.

 

They say more snow is coming

It is so cold

And I cannot have your arms around me

I cannot put my arms around you

But you will be my blanket

I will wrap you around me

every day of my life

and I will be warm

and I will be loved

we will be loved

by you

forever.

 

An Unburdening

January 18, 2015

I didn’t want to tell you

I didn’t want to burden you

And thought that I should be strong enough

But I’m not

Because this is too much to carry

By myself.

And so I’m going to tell you

how hard it is

To lie down next to my mother

To know her pain

To hear her try to speak and not be understood

To not know if she will hear my words.

And so we look into each other’s eyes

And my eyes say I love you I love you I love you

And I imagine her eyes saying those words back to me

But what I really hear is Help me. Save me. I am suffering.

And I am helpless

And she is helpless

And I search for something to soothe her.

I cover her with kisses

And tickle her arms knowing that my tickles will never be

as good as my mother’s

Because my mother is the best tickler in the world.

I put on music

Opera which my parents tortured me with as a child

And I beg please Pavarotti sing my mother to sleep

And finally my mother sleeps

And I snuggle up next to her with the rails of her bed digging into my back

I feel so small squeezed into this little space beside her

And I cry and cry

Not wanting my mother to go

but so desperately wanting her to be free

To be free from pain in her body and her mind and her heart

Free from

this life that is not a life

 

The Backpacking Shrink

Sell your cleverness, and buy bewilderment - Rumi

rhondastephens

To Catch A Falling Cactus

Long Haul Trekkers

Adventure Travel with Dogs

donuts, dresses and dirt

living a well-tended life... at any age

HeartBeats

Monthly Tips for EFT Couples Therapists

Bonnie Rae

simple days with bonnie rae.

Ferocious Foodie

One man's brutally honest opinion about all things edible.

TALES FROM THE MOTHERLAND

Straight up with a twist– Because life is too short to be subtle!

Empty House, Full Mind

Views of life from the empty nest

RobSwihart.com

Life By Design ... One Day At A Time

World Cup 2014

welcome! Please contribute your opinions about world cup

The New Elizabeth

Reinventing Myself

PeanutBubba & Fluff

The "just for your entertainment" tales of mommyhood

Lessons Learned

Life has taught me well

WriterMason

Mermaid on a bicycle

3kids2cats1divorce

Muddling through with humor, grace, and hairballs