This past Wednesday, January 11th, marked 28 years since my sweet mama went to Heaven. She was 62. I have lived a year longer so far than she got to. The older I get the more I miss her. You’d think it would be the opposite. And granted it’s not the wracking grief of a recent loss. But that fond ache grows a bit every year.
Most of our neighbors here at the river are retired like I am. My husband plans to be at the end of the year. He and I happen to be among the younger folks in our neighborhood. A few of the neighbors are the age my parents would be, and fortunately most of them are healthy and active. They fish, go boating, walk, blow leaves, and tend plants. The ladies play a ruthless game of dominoes every month accompanied by lunch with homemade desserts and neighborhood gossip. They find an excuse 6 or 8 times a year to have a neighborhood get-together whether it’s a holiday or someone has a freezer full of fish that needs frying. Several of them spontaneously show up whenever anyone has a plumbing problem, a tree down, a boat stuck on the shoals, or a project under way. There will be jokes poked, unsolicited advice offered, and strong arms and backs bent to the work at hand. And, more often than not, when the work is done, someone fires up a grill or lights a bonfire. Food gets dished up, drinks passed around, and a guitar pulled out of a back seat.
My mother would have loved all that. She would have loved the beauty and peacefulness of this place. She would have loved these neighbors who are welcoming, helpful, forthright, and wickedly fun. She would love playing with her great grands and seeing the capable mother my older daughter has become. She would have loved enjoying the many talents of my brother’s children, who she never got to know.
She would have been devastated by the death of my younger daughter. I’m glad that’s a pain she did not have to endure.
When Mama died, my 85-year-old grandmother lost her only child. She lived another 10 years after that, healthy and active like my neighbors until just a couple of months before she passed away. I’m ashamed to admit that until I lost Rachel, I rarely thought about how often my grandmother might have questioned why she outlived her daughter. Why she was blessed with 95 years of good health and her dear Patsy got cancer at 58. I never heard my grandmother question God. I never saw my mother’s faith waver. I wish I had their strength.
I look in the mirror and I see my mother in middle age. I look at pictures side by side of both Mama and Rachel in their college years and I see mirror images. I think about my grandmother when I see the resilience of some of my older neighbors. So, in many ways they’re all still here. And in many ways that makes me miss them even more.