Cutting Loss Down to Size: May 2015

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Happy Mother's Day, Mom

Her name was Annamaria Giuseppina Virgo Sorci. She was barely 5 feet tall, but her spirit filled amphitheaters. When she was angry, she scared me...but never for long because her anger wore itself out as quickly as it erupted. Some people called her controlling, but they didn't see her with my eyes. She was my mother.

Lately I'd been missing and thinking about her intensely, unaware of the date. But the heart has no need of a calendar. Mothers Day. Of course. The reason for those odd streams of memories trickling through my thoughts.

I remembered toilet training. Yes. My own. Just after a breakfast of cereal, a big glass of milk, and orange juice. (I hadn't wanted that orange juice). I just wanted to leave the table and go play with my toys. Instead, I was grasped firmly by the hand and brought to the potty. Objections were futile. I knew I was disappointing her. But I just couldn't perform. So we waited...waited...waited. She was nothing if not determined.

I remember crying as my big brother and older cousins happily marched off to school together. Why was I being excluded? She dried my tears and told me there was a different school for little girls my age. And she put me in front of the tv with my breakfast while I attended Romper Room with Miss Frances. It was magic. She had created a world for me.

She was a whirlwind. Cleaning was serious business. So was cooking, creating parties and family events, and preparing for the holidays. Everything she did was magazine-photo perfect. She was her own harshest critic, re-doing things as often as it took. She loved what she did for us.

And she loved us all fiercely. It seemed she spent every moment with us. On the rare occasions that she went out for an evening, she'd tip-toe in and kiss me awake
before she even took off her coat. It felt like a dream. A few years later, after her parents moved in with us, I heard my nonna during the night telling her to let her sleep in peace, dio mio. Nonna was sick and Mom would check on her to make sure she was still breathing!

Mom was omnipresent. And if she couldn't be present physically, she reached out via telephone. She had all of my friends' phone numbers and knew where I was every minute. God help me if I changed plans and forgot to clue her in. As a teenager, I was embarrassed by her "checking up on me." As an adult, I realize she was scared. I was her baby. The phone was the only way she could keep me safe from a distance.

After her parents had passed and my brother and I were on our own, she and Dad had more time to themselves.They traveled extensively. She would tell me (for a few decades, actually) how lucky she had been to have had such a good life. She had married the love of her life, they'd had no money worries, had friends and family they loved, and enjoyed so many wonderful times together. And then her tone would change. She'd lean forward and look at me intently, and say: "So don't you cry for me when I'm gone, you hear?? I've had a wonderful life, you hear me??"

In my discomfort, I'd wave away such talk. Sometimes I'd nod and agree, just to placate her and put an end to it. Sometimes I'd tease her and tell her I'll cry if I want to. Then she'd get angry and say: "I mean it, Dolores. I'm not kidding around. You listen to me!"

And the first month or so after she died, there were no tears. Just as she wanted. But soon enough, in the shower, the tears came. They poured down. They could have watered a small garden. Sometimes they come still, in spite of her finger-wagging.

So, there, Ma. Not even you can wipe away all the tears. Or plan every eventuality. Or shield me from heartbreak. You can't control love. You hear?