Memory is a tricky thing. Here I am bragging that I have every book that I have ever read stored somewhere in my memory banks, and I can’t even remember important life events. In fact, there’s a lot that I wish I could remember that I can’t.
For instance, last Thursday I was poking around in one of the closets in the hallway on the second floor, when I discovered something else about my past that I had apparently “forgotten” all about.
I hadn’t intended to come across an overlooked memory that day. Honest. That’s not why I was looking in the closet. I was simply searching for the old photo albums. My father keeps them hidden away. I guess he doesn’t want to be reminded of happier times (which, I must admit, has always seemed kind of strange to me. I think that if I were my dad, I’d need to remind myself of happier times on a daily basis).
Anyway, as I was saying, I was looking for the old photo albums when I came across a pile of letters that my brother and I had written to my mother when she was in the hospital. But, even though I definitely remember owning the stationery (it had this adorable drawing of a chimpanzee on it), and even though the handwriting is definitely mine, and even though there were six letters from each of us sitting in a neat little pile in the closet, I have absolutely no recollection of ever having written even one letter to my mother while she was in the hospital.
Who came up with the idea? Me? My father? It was probably done at my mother’s request, but I can’t seem to remember her ever writing back to us. And, I’m afraid that despite my best efforts these past few days, I haven’t been able to unearth even one long-lost letter of my mother’s (to refresh my less than perfect memory).
It really stinks, too, because I would love to have some of my mother’s thoughts on paper. It would be nice to have something to add to my sometimes sketchy memories of our life together.
I have never told this to anyone before, but there is this little part of me that has always waited and hoped for a letter to appear. It probably has something to do with the fact that my mother and I never got to say goodbye.
I mean, it’s not as if I need to hear her say that she loved me or anything – I know that she loved me. But, because we never really acknowledged her illness, or the fact that she was dying, we didn’t get to have any of those tragically poignant conversations that people are supposed to have when they’re about to be separated forever.
In books and movies, people on their deathbeds always gather family and friends together in order to say goodbye. Everyone hovers over the bed and cries while the person who is dying tells them how much he (or she) loves them all, and begs them to be happy, and to be strong. And everyone promises to try to be happy, and to try to be strong. And, then, right before the soul departs from the body, the person who is dying imparts these incredible words of wisdom on those around him (or her); thoughts that only those at the edge of death can adequately express. It’s always a very emotional moment.
Unfortunately, my mother apparently did not see the romance in deathbed speeches. Because, not only did I never get to say goodbye to her, I also never had one of those “this is what I want for your future” talks, or anything like that. In fact, try as I might (and believe me I’ve tried) I cannot for the life of me even recall the last conversation I had with my mother before she died.
That’s why, even though my mother didn’t say goodbye, or make me promise to take care of my father and my little brother, or tell me to be a good girl, or anything like that, I wish that she had at least written it down.
I suppose that this morbid desire might be considered by some to be overly dramatic, silly, or just outright unreasonable. But, I can’t help how I feel. It hurts me to know that there isn’t a letter; that there aren’t any words of motherly wisdom out there with my name on them.
And there isn’t any letter. Believe me, I know.
I didn’t get a letter when she died, and I’m not going to get one when I turn eighteen. I’m not going to get one when I graduate from college. And I’m not going to get one when I get married either. There simply is no letter. She didn’t say goodbye.
Maybe if she had, I would have been better prepared for her death. Maybe I would be able to remember more. Maybe.