Today is your 65th birthday. Would you already be retired? Would you spend your off days going to IHOP, telling the waitress about Jesus and inviting her to learn with you? Would you hair be grey just at the temples, or would you have a full head of salt and pepper like your mother? I’ve filled the last 21 and-a-half years with questions that will always be unanswered, because you died when you were only 43 – just a little more than three years older than I am now. You passed away when I was ready for you to teach me everything. I fought through my teenage angst and finally believed you when you told me that you were my friend.
Fortunately, you gave me a good enough foundation to piece together the things I believe you would have taught me. I’m not the person you raised me to be, Mama – not entirely. There are vast swaths of my life that you would categorically disapprove of. This is the first year that I realized that’s okay. Perhaps it’s because my own kids are approaching adulthood. I won’t always like the things they do or the choices they make, but I will always be their mama. I think through our fights, my stubbornness, and your tight-lipped disapproval, we would have found our own rhythm.
You never get used to not having a mama. My brilliant friend Deesha said it best in a Facebook post last week:
I just sighed a long, long sigh and suddenly had the urge/thought to call my mother, as if I really could. I actually sat up to do it. As if I had forgotten that my mother died in 2005. The last time I had that impulse/urge/thought was about 5 years ago. In joy and in sadness, I guess it’s always there.
My brain is wired to do things that don’t make sense. Sometimes I scour my brain trying to remember your email address, despite the fact that you’ve never had one. I wanted to call you to tell you that BB made the cheer squad and that Tyson performed at the Gene Kelly Awards, despite the fact that you’ve never met my children. We had a full-blown argument in my head when I moved to Maryland, though you had been gone almost eleven years by then. This is because you’re not really gone.
They always say the Devil is in the details, but Mama, it’s you. You’re everywhere. You’re in Shaun’s love for God and Kelly’s fighting spirit. You’re in the set of Chloe’s jaw when she realizes someone is trying her and she’s ready to let them know she ain’t the one or the two. You’re in the shape of Tyson’s finger and toenails. You’re in BB’s jawline and her elbows and knees when she dances. You’re in my compassion. And when the world is falling down around my ears and I want to crawl under my bed, YOU are right there saying, “Keep getting ready, Melanie,” because you know I have a goal. Right before you died, you said, “At least I know Melanie will be alright. And if Melanie is alright, the rest of the girls will be too.” So, I’m alright, Mama. I refuse to make a liar out of you.
I love you and I miss you, even though in a million ways, you’re still here. Today, rather than feeling sad, I’m basking in that blessing.