Monday, March 31, 2014

Anniversary Blooms and Belly Buttons























A year ago today, my Mother left us to our memories of her. Some of those memories bloom in my garden -- so many plants she brought here from her own. The omphalodes cappadocica in this photograph are in bloom right now. Not sure how she managed that clever trick. I remember the day she put two or three divisions into this inhospitable rocky plot in the seaside part of our yard. It was at least 8 years ago, perhaps 10, but I still remember her telling me how she loved their name, its reference to the navel that gleams white in the flower's blue centre. They've sprawled their delicate way now across a small horticultural empire, belly button by belly button. (We were never allowed to say "belly button" when I was growing up -- proper names for body parts were preferred, somehow thought more, hmmm, genteel? cultivated? In elementary school, I felt slightly awkward about the term, the way it separated me from my peers, but I couldn't feel comfortable breaking the family contract, even away from home, somehow. And perhaps I was secretly proud of the difference. . . )

Have I mused here before about the significance of my mother planting a Navel-referencing flower in my garden? It's a sticky thought, no? What with my navel being a potent reminder of that special time she and I spent together. . .

And now she's gone, but the flowers have sprung up yet again. As Tennyson wrote, in words my mother had engraved when my brother died some 38 years ago, "And every winter change to spring." Tennyson couldn't quite be consoled by the sentiment, and I'm not sure I am. But there's a sweetness to seeing these wee pretties reappear. Even though my mother, father, and brother, remains all nestled under that same gravestone, will not.

Life continues. I'm keeping an eye out for the spring blooms. What else can you do, right? But I'd love her to know we're going to Italy on her dime in June, 10 of us (3 adult children, their partners, 2 grandchildren, Paul and I). I think she'd like that. I'm sure she'd be thrilled to know that the only reason our 4th is not coming with us is because she'll be getting too close to the ETA of our next grandchild. And I wonder what she'd think of me getting ready to run a marathon at 60+, given that she regularly walked such long distances. Or even just of me being over 60, a feat I achieved several weeks after she departed. . . .

But she's gone, and I'm left with a wealth of siblings, their partners, my nieces and nephews, my own lovely family, all hers and Dad's most important legacy. And a love of books and gardening and classical music, especially opera. Thanks to her, I play piano and can knit and have a weakness for butter and know how thoroughly to clean those tight little spaces between faucet and countertop. . . . She never could convince me to like retsina though. . . .

I find this is a tough post to end appropriately. It's calling for closure at this point, and, you know, I'm not there yet. I suspect closure is a myth anyway, and I'm not ready to put a verbal bow on Memories of Mom. So. I'll just tiptoe away, I think, take my morning cup of tea out to the garden and sit in the morning sunshine for a moment next to a Belly Button flower, see if I feel any little guilt over not calling it an omphalodes cappadocica. That's me gone then. . . . Bye.

28 comments:

  1. Such a loving memoir. We hold a scrapbook of memories, and sometimes new ones appear, spurred by some cue in the present. Occasionally I dream of my parents and sister, which is a kind of gift; I can't summon it by will. Anniversaries are days to pause, remember and speak of those we love.

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    1. Yes, those dreams are a kind of gift, rare, precious. Even the daytime memories arise, as you suggest, in unexpected ways, often surprising us.

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  2. Such a loving and beautiful post, a memoir, and a moving forward with all the thoughts and longings and hope that crowd together in our hearts. constantly.

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    1. This is it, Mardel, that crowding together of thought and feeling and memory, a gently constant background to the daily. . .

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  3. Your memories are loving and you will always have those belly buttons. I don't know about closure. It could be a myth. Sometimes I look at my dad's picture on my desktop and wonder how someone who was with me for almost 61 years could be gone. Maybe it comes with time, but I really don't know.

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    1. My dad died in 2000, and we all still miss him, although it's a peaceful sense of loss now. A gladness that I had a father so worth missing. . . If I'd lost him, or my mother, in my teens or early 20s it might have been more difficult to reconcile to the loss. I don't know either . . . .

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  4. Such beautiful memories.....my mum does the same, and I am always getting cuttings to plant, I love how the plants live on whatever! xx

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    1. They're a wonderful memento, aren't they?!

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  5. Oh dear. This is the anniversary of my mother's death, as well. She too loved and grew beautiful flowers - that is one of my fondest memories of her, when I would return from school and find an Old Master's floral display, from our garden, arranged in artfully artless abundance on the dining room table.

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    1. What a coincidence! I love how visual that memory is -- not just visual, I'd say I can almost smell the rich arrangement. Take care. . .

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  6. We have had the first anniversary of my mother-in-law's death as well as the sixth for my father-in-law. Later this year will be the 15th for my mother. I don't know if we have complete closure on any of them. Both of us are only children, so we are the sole survivors and holders of memories (my dad's memory is slipping) so, in a way, it feels as if we need to keep the memories alive so they do not die a second death. It's hard to explain.
    Lynn

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    1. An interesting perspective from only children. I know that even in my own large extended family, there has been an impulse, since my mother's death, to do even more to keep the memories, as you say, alive. We were fairly good about this before, but I think the awakened awareness of mortality and of our own spot in the line as placeholders has us all wanting to make sure there's enough to hand on. I think perhaps it's not just about those we've lost, but about wanting to feel/show that individual lives (so our own as well) make a difference. . . . Or something like that. Hard to explain, but worth pondering. Thanks for the comment.

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  7. My mother's favorite flower was the Lenten Rose. She passed on March 15th, 3 years ago, while the Lenten Roses were in full bloom. I could hardly look at the flowers the year after her death but my Lenten Roses, which are from her garden, are more beautiful as each year passes. They have become a joy and a special reminder of how beautiful she was to me. Thanks for sharing your lovely thoughts.

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    1. The Lenten Rose is a lovely flower to remember your mother by, although I understand how sad it would have made you the first year. My brother died in early February, and so many people brought potted hyacinths to the house that my mother for years after couldn't bear their scent for the sorrow. I never thought to ask, in her last few years, whether that association had softened, but for me the hyacinths are just a sweet reminder of a dear young man who will always remain young in my memory. Thanks for sharing this memory of your mother -- may her Lenten Roses continue to bloom in your garden.

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  8. A lovely post - it's taken me a while to respond because it brings up so many feelings. My father died when I was 22, and even now I miss him, usually at odd times. Although my mother is alive, she is no longer really with us in any meaningful way - there was hope that she might recover with treatment but it is looking increasingly unlikely. I just keep thinking about the last holiday we spent with her, which was the least conflict-ridden time we had ever spent together, and wondering if it was the last memory I will have of her as a functioning person. It is difficult.

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    1. I'm so sorry, Tiffany. I don't know what your mother's condition is, but I do remember that we lost mine in various stages in her last years. I want to say that at least you had that last fairly good time with her, but I know that supposed consolation must bring its own sadness. May you find solace, at least, in your children and husband. Take care.

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  9. The departure of a mother. Too many feelings to really respond, but leaving a comment for support and acknowledgement.

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  10. Thanks, Lisa. The comment is appreciated, and I can easily understand why some will find this a post that stirs up feelings. Take care.

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  11. Such a lovely post.
    Closure? I don't know how there could be. More like a gentle settling into life without her - letting the small memories find their way in as the year of 'firsts' gives way to the second year.

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    1. I like that depiction of a gentle settling -- that's much more what it's like. How are you? I know you're really busy with work and family, but I hope all is well and the busy-ness is the only reason you're not currently blogging. Miss your voice.

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  12. I love the belly button flower - how very appropriate and so pretty too! Like you, I am a brother, a father and a mother down, but still with a big family to love and much to be thankful for, and like you I still find it hard to come to terms with losing my Mum.

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    1. It's a big loss, isn't it? Surprising to me, in many ways, to feel this so, as I wasn't easy/comfortable with my mom. . .

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  13. Frances: I don't know how I missed this post. It's beautiful! And you are so fortunate (even in the misfortune of loss and grief) to have visceral, tangible reminders of your mother's presence in your life. That she remains in spring rebloom is a beautiful metaphor. There's no need to end this discussion - I'm sure you will continue to have it with us, your loved ones and yourself for many years to come. As it should be. xo

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    1. Thanks, Kristin. I do feel fortunate to have some really good reminders of her, and some lovely memories. . . and you're right, it will probably be an ongoing discussion we all have, in one way or another.

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  14. Oh goodness. My mother died 5 months ago on Monday. Her legacy too is a family which spreads and loves and sustains. How can she be gone though? I struggle with my father's decline with MND and want to talk to her about whether what we are doing is ok. I feel so much that I could manage her loss if it were not for my dad or that in order to manage my dad I am somehow denying her loss. Hard hard hard.

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    1. It is hard. And from what I remember, it was sudden and you've really had too little space to be able to grieve, having been forced to just get on with life, especially for your dad's care. I suspect it will be hard for quite some time -- I hope you're able to find moments of solace, whether in the garden or with your grandsons, your children, a good book, an hour in sunshine. Take care. . .

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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