I’ve been cleaning up the apartment that sits above our garage. It was my Mother’s home for over three decades. I don’t call it her’s anymore because it, well isn’t. Things have changed and what was important for her then is not what is important now. Like waves on water, her change ripples through us, her family. She has made a new home in the room across from Silent Bob’s and my bedroom. A collector most of her life, her interests have dwindled, like her body, and her new room contains very little. Aged and chemo-ed, she remains remarkable, but largely indifferent to thirty years of collected objects.
It is my job to go through them and do something with them.
Now those of you that know me, would think I am sad at this, and I won’t deny that on occasion the weight of this task has tilted heavy in that direction. But mostly there is a knowledge in me that the apartment is waiting for it’s next occupant. You might call me fanciful, but I’ve known buildings, whether brick and mortar, or stone or hardy plank, that had good karma. And I have known those that didn’t. It’s like the lives lived in a place leave some kind of fragrance or stink, one that is beyond a smelling sense but there just the same. And as life is lived and especially loved in a place, something about that goodness can seep into the walls and remain.
Mother’s apartment is that. Passionately lost in her paints and canvases, some very beautiful and fine, suitors came and went, and it was always far more family than friends that sat in her chairs. She decorated for Christmas, worked out of the home and for some years she drank wine, until she didn’t. But not once, not one single day did she forget to pray, more often and continuous, to be truthful. And it was to her grandsons that so much love was poured onto. Jake was the initiate of the rite of passage that included alone time on a pallet on the her apartment floor. Each man child, twelve and change usually, were drawn to the quiet solace and special considerations that was her’s to offer. Each in turn always asked. “Grandmother, can I sleep in your apartment tonight?”
“Get you some blankets out and a pillow out of that hamper. Make you a pallet”, she’d answer. It would last for each of them about a year.
So as I clean up and throw out these days, its the memories of things I knew Mother had in her place, things I had forgotten she had or done, and things I never knew she had or thought, that are really the stuff that seeps into walls that to the uninitiated just look like they could use some paint.
Laying my hand on the red cardboard of a worn photo album, I leaf through the album that graced our coffee table when I was young. It hardly escapes me as I look through the old photos, how much my Jake favored my dad and his dad before him. I am enamored at how much genetics allows change and yet doesn’t. I find myself glad for this. There is a comfort in that. And though I wish Jake had had a child I could hold to my breast, I am so eternally grateful that he was mine, I chosen to be his mother, born 40 years ago today.
I read some time ago that psychologists now realize that time doesn’t really heal grief. Grief is indeed a big hole that never diminishes. Rather it’s a person’s psyche that changes to accommodate the grief. Just as sure as ripples change water, I have learned to accommodate. But in doing so, I have learned that two other things are equally true: Jake as my son, is still my son and never out of my heart for a minute. More than memories, or the perfume of life lived, the love for him, who he is, has never changed. And won’t. How glorious is that? And how wonderful it is that when its my Mother’s time to leave this existence, while I might cherish a few of the many things she collected, it’s her and her love that time will never steal. And yet the changing part of God’s plan means that the apartment waits for another life lived in it, an added new perfume, and one who I knows prays as often as the occupant before him.
Some things change and some don’t. Today that makes me happy.