The Tide

by Lisa on November 17, 2011

I stand ankle deep in water. The tide was was briefly in, but the waters are ebbing out to sea. A tugging. A getting shallower and shallower. I search the vast horizon looking. Looking, but not seeing. She is there. Somewhere. But I am losing my grip on her. I can feel it. I can smell it. I can see it. —And, it hurts.

This week has been hard. It’s that date thing again. Every time I think I’ve moved beyond it, it creeps up once again. Today, 11/17/11, will be two years that she had her first MRI. Two years.

I remember sleeping at my parents house two years ago tonight. Dad was out of town hunting and Mom was in too much pain, and too unsteady on her feet. David and I had agreed that I needed to sleep at their house. If she fell getting out of bed, or if she could not get out of bed, or if she needed medicine, I did not want her to be alone. I remember her and I briefly talking about the MRI. There was some hesitation in her voice, fear maybe, but also a sense of longing to know what monster she was dealing with. I remember laying in bed later that night, praying. “Lord, what ever you do, however this plays out, please, please do not let it be terminal.”

His ways, obviously, are not my ways.

Yesterday I got a message on my phone (that used to be hers) that said I had a text, but the inbox was too full to let me see it. Although the phone is capable of receiving texts, I don’t do them, or encourage people to send them to me, because it’s not on the phone plan and each text costs additional money. Who in the world was texting me? I was curious. I started pushing buttons trying to figure out how to get to the text inbox and then how to delete the rabbit hole of old messages.”Hi Lisa…blah, blah, blah…” “Hi Lisa…”

I started hitting delete. Delete after delete. Useless message after useless message. Then bam!

“Hi Mom. Just thinking about you. Hope you are feeling better.” “Hi Mom. Happy Thanksgiving! I love you! Princess” “Hi Mom. How did the MRI go?” “Hi Mom. Did you hear back from the doctor yet? Fra” “Hi Mom. Thinking about you! Love you! Clau” “Hi Mom. Merry Chritmas! Hope the nausea is better.” Hi Mom. Tried to call today. Sorry I missed you. I will see you in a couple of weeks. Love you! Twerp”

The tears begin to roll. Words meant for her, not me. Words meant to bring comfort, not grief. Words meant to bring love, not pain.

On my way home from work last night, I stopped by my parents house. Dad is hunting again. But this year the house stood empty. I was there only to pick up the paper and feed the cat. I opened the door, and in a flash moment the tide came in—she was there. Her picture—there—on the bookshelf. Smiling.

But just as quickly as it came, the tide went rushing out. Water churning, foaming, tugging. Going back out to sea—and taking her with it.

In that frantic, seeking mode I started going from room to room. Looking. Searching. I opened her top dresser drawer and picked up articles of clothing she’d left, but it was not satisfying. I looked in her nightstand. Nothing. On to the hall closet. I opened the door, wanting to smell her, but found only Dad’s sweaters piled on top of her sweaters—and no Mom smell. Into Francesca’s room, I flipped on the light. In the middle of the room, on the floor, is a pile of things Dad has cleared out of her closet—the pink and red floral baby blanket she started for Isabelle (needle still in it where she started sewing yarn through the quilting), her ancient, and crumbling, knitting bag, fabric in a plastic bag, a cardboard box of patterns. I fumble to the closet and throw open the doors. All the shoes are gone. Some random, out-of-date clothes are still on hangers, but the majority of her things have been cleared out.

Now I’m desperate.

Where are those pictures I gave to Dad for the Memorial Service? He never gave them back and I want them NOW. I move to the other end of the house, and start in the dresser there. The first drawer I open has some photo albums in it, but I don’t immediately see what I’m searching for. I start emptying the drawer. There is a brown paper bag at the bottom. It contains one of my photos. I take it. I put all the stuff back as neat as I can. I don’t want Dad to know I’m going through the dresser. I know he would not let me have this photo back. He would say it was his, but I still have the original, empty frame at my house.

I open the next drawer. Lying on the top is a gold cross icon like the one she got me from one of their trips to Rome. I know Mom loved it, and I love it too. I take it. It’s in the drawer after all. He won’t even know it’s missing. So what that I already have one similar to it. It’s not like I’m stealing—or is it? I want it. He’s not using it. He doesn’t even know the signifigance of stuff like this to her, but I know he wouldn’t let me have it. I take it anyway. I don’t care if it’s stealing. I miss her, and this is all I have left of her. I rationalize my taking of it.

I move to the desk and sit down. I slide the drawer open. Paper with her name professionally printed on it. Under it, more paper—this time with her handwriting on it. I pick it up and finger the paper as if touching the words will bring her back. I look at her neatly labeled files. One says, “Cards”. One says, “Computer paper”. One says, “Envelopes”. At the very back of the drawer there is one labeled “Teaching Stuff”. I see a minilla envelope and pull it out. It has something hard in it. I reach in and pull out a diploma. It’s from the U of O dated September 1969. I was seven months old. There is a letter in there too. It’s a request to the Bethel School District for early retirement. It is dated March of 2007. Full circle in an envelope. I shove the stuff back in the envelope, and back into the file. I close the drawer. I’m spent. It’s time to go home.

The tears are freely flowing. I stop in the bathroom on my way down the hall for a kleenex, and sit down on the toilet. My eyes go to the the cupboard and I reach out and open it. There’s her perfume. I take off the lid and inhale. I momentarily think about taking this bottle along with my other “findings”, but I can’t. It seems too personal. Too unfair to my Dad. I close the cupboard and get up to leave.

As I move to the door, I turn out all the lights. I can feel the tide washing out, and with it she is going too. Each time I come to this place, each frantic moment I search for her here, I realize I am losing my grip on her. She is going. Yes, I know, people have told me, that she lives on in memories, in things she taught me, and in ways she touched them, but all of that is just plain nonsense to me in this moment of grief. I don’t give a rip. I want her.

And, like the high tide, she is gone. 

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

francesca November 17, 2011 at 2:20 am

It’s so painful to read about your pain, and even more so because those feelings are the same I feel everytime I see her picture or read one of her letters. I still can’t take myself to going through her pics. It’s way too hard. So I can just start guessing what you are still going through. Just start guessing, because you have her in you everyday life, in every little and apparently insignificant thing you do, see, think, feel.
Twi days ago and sat down on the floor and opened the box where I keep her letters. They still have a certain smell I associate to her. I still cannot read them, though. Look at them, sometimes.
I love you, Lis.

Mindy LeRoux November 17, 2011 at 5:29 am

I think of your family often- I hope you are moving forward with strength and coping with our loss of your mom. Just yesterday I was thinking about your mom and talked about her with my mom who is here visiting from the east coast.
Stay strong and cherish your memories.

Dan Patrick November 17, 2011 at 9:10 am

Hi Lisa,
I know the feeling well! You sure do have a great way putting it into words! I love your writing.
I did not know that her first MRI was on your Grandmothers birthday. Today is her 92nd birthday. Wow, I hope I can make it there. Dad will be 91 next month.
Love & prayers

KC November 17, 2011 at 10:00 am

Hi Lisa,
I was just reading the prayer book that you and David gave to me on my birthday. It made me think of you. The prayer for this day is; “Lord our God, you are our refuge. We wait for you, for your purpose will never fail and your promise will be fulfilled. This we may firmly believe, and from this we may draw strength every day. Even when our life brings sorrow, we do not want to grieve. We want to hope and believe and endure until your day comes. Your kingdom will come on earth, and in the meantime you are watching over your people. In the midst of the world’s daily affairs there will be people who hope in you, who belong to you, and who are firmly rooted in the grace of Jesus Christ until the time is fulfilled. Amen.”

Lisa November 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Thank you! I needed that!

Shana November 17, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Oh Lisa,
I wish you would come over after evenings like that so Greg and I could just give you a big hug. I too, struggle with the emptiness of the house across the street at times….lately a lot more than usual. Dang, I so dread November!
Let’s get together and bake something. In honor of Granny! It may help to brighten these dreary days.
Love you!

Lisa November 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Christmas cookies again? :)

Talia November 17, 2011 at 11:50 pm

No words…
I just love you and really appreciate you sharing this…
I think the prayer that KC wrote says it all… ; )

He will make all things right one day…

Praying for you,

Deanna September 13, 2012 at 2:48 am

Lisa, this was beautiful. Thank you for doing the hard work of listening to your heart and then being able and willing to articulate it so movingly for the rest of us. Obviously, I understand. So glad we have connected via blogosphere…

Lisa September 13, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Thanks Deanna for your kind words. I wish you did not understand so well.

I’m gad we’ve connected too. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.


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