Tuesday, February 13, 2018

SOL Tuesday: The Jannie Trifecta, Part 3

     Over the last two weeks, I have shared the first two of a three-part series of small moments in which I honored my mom, who I lost to esophageal cancer this past September. You can read the backstory here, and part two here, if you like. This week's story is the final part, and picks up where last week's left off.
     After those Saturday experiences at Anderson's and Portillo's, I was emotionally wiped out, and knew I wanted to save one more act of kindness for Sunday, January 21, Mom's actual birthday. I woke up that morning feeling really sad. The heavy, I-can't-stop-crying-or-thinking-about-how-much-I-miss-Mom kind of desolation. My husband was at work, my sister was across the country, and my newly-licensed 16-year-old daughter was taking a friend for a smoothie.
     "Want one, Mom?" Sarah asked, as I sat on the fireplace heart, trying to warm the chill inside.
     "No thanks, sweetie. I'm good." (I'm fine. It's fine. Everything's fine. Our family motto since Mom died. We have a twisted sense of humor.)
     "Are you sure it's okay for me to go?"
     "Absolutely," I said, wiping the tears from my face and resolving to suck it up. I hated when she worried about me, and by now, I knew doing for others would help lessen the sadness, even for a little while.
Mom, in her happy place
     I got dressed, threw a hat on, and drove to the local Starbucks drive thru. Starbucks was one of Mom's favorite pleasures, and one of the few things she still enjoyed when she got sick. After her diagnosis and brief time in the hospital, Mom chose to stay at home, and she remained there for almost a month until she died. Throughout that time, I would drive down almost daily, taking sick days here and there and, finally a week off work that turned out to be the best - and last - week we'd spend together. We had established a routine. I'd either get Sarah off to school if Chance was working and drive down, or I'd wake up at Mom's house, having spent the previous night. Either way, the first things on the agenda were pain management and Starbucks. In that order. Once her pain was under control, I'd order Starbucks on her app (no water chai latte for her, sugar-free vanilla soy latte for me, and an Americano for my sister if she was in town) and drive to the local Starbucks drive thru to pick it up. When I returned, Mom would be sitting on her front porch, often with a book, soaking up the morning sun. We'd sit together, holding hands, talking about everything and nothing. Nothing left unsaid.
     But so much was left unsaid.
Days spent holding hands
     I arrived at the drive thru, memories swimming through my head, tears swimming in my eyes. Ahead of me, I noticed a car with the window rolled down: a mom with two kids in the back was out getting her Sunday morning caffeine fix.
     "Good morning, welcome to Starbucks," a voice intoned through the menu's speaker, "What can we get started for you today?"
      I placed my order. "A grande no water chai and a grande sugar-free vanilla soy latte, please." Then I told the story I had told two times the previous day. "I'm also wondering if you can do me a favor. It's a bit unorthodox. Starbucks was one of my mom's favorite things. Today is her birthday, but she passed away a few months ago, so I'd like to pay for the order for the car in front of me in honor of her birthday. Can you help me do that?"
     "I'm so sorry for your loss," the voice replied, "I'd be happy to help. Do you want me to tell the person?'
     "Yes, please," I mumbled, choking up a bit.
     I waited behind the mom, who had pulled up to the window and was holding out cash to pay for her order. She listened, pulled her arm back in the window of her car, then stuck her head out. "Thank you!" she called out. "That was so kind, and I'm so sorry about your mom. I hope today is a good day for you!"
     I waved back, unable to speak at that point, as I had been slammed with a wave of conflicting emotions. Contentment because I'd connected with another mom. Sorrow because I miss Mom. Loneliness because I miss being a daughter. Gratitude because I'd done something for someone else. I drove home with my drinks, feeling lighter than I had when I woke up that morning.
     Even now, as I write this a few weeks later, I am overwhelmed by those same feelings. They're not as intense as they were that morning, but they remain. I think the same is true for this grieving process (or at least, it has been for me.) At first, the emotions are overwhelmingly intense and constant. A tsunami, unrelenting. I have been underwater, and am now just starting to break the surface. The feelings are starting to come more in waves. Still intense, still just as powerful. But now, four and a half months after Mom died, I can breathe for a bit in between. Then another set of waves comes and I'm pulled under for a while. I have faith that the waves will someday have more space between them for me to breathe. I hope that someday I will be able remember my life with Mom not with desolation and tears, but with joy and laughter.

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I am grateful to the Two Writing Teachers blog, and especially to the Slice of Life community, for having this space to share my Slice of Life. Click here to read and experience more small moments.

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