It's been almost five months since my stepmother Margot passed away and although the rawness I felt upon her loss has abated, there is still an almost continual ache that lies just beneath the surface of everything I do, think and feel. I know given both the closeness we shared for over forty years and the completely unexpected suddenness of the circumstances that lead to her death that this ache is not unusual; not that it makes it any easier.
Over the past months, I've refrained from either saying or writing much about how I feel; mostly because, despite how much I love to blab on about inconsequential matters, I'm fairly private about how I am feeling and what I am experiencing. During this time, I've often found myself on opposite extremes of how I react to how others have responded to her death. At times, I've found myself irritated or even downright angry at what I perceived to be a false sentiment of sorrow. Other times, I've been both perplexed and sadly disappointed in how a few people have behaved; mostly in their absence of any real sympathy at all. Of course there have been my stalwart supporters; those I knew I could count on and, true to form, they've been there for me when I've fallen apart. There have also been some folks who came out of left field and surprised me with their kindness and understanding. Stark in her absence, of course, has been Margot herself; she was someone I could always count on to be there for me as I struggled through various trials and tribulations that I encountered in my life. I'm not entirely certain what she'd advise me now in how to handle her death and the aftermath of my grief, but, she'd likely tell me to go easy on myself and that everything will turn out ok sooner or later.
I've found it to be true what I'd been told about losing someone precious to you; it's not so much the initial rush of grief and sadness that is the most difficult to bear; rather, it is those sudden moments, least expected, where there is a stab of such deep and unspeakable sorrow that it can take your breath away, or bring you to your knees, or both. And, these moments, even as they may decrease in frequency, never let up in their rawness and intensity.
And, as I said, I still have the continual underlying ache going on. I do believe that this has contributed to my being slightly more than testy at times over the past months, and certainly recently, as we've been in the throes of uprooting and moving. In the back of my mind, I'm aware that this move probably wouldn't even be happening had Margot not died, at least not at this point in time. I know that had she been alive and we were moving closer, she'd be elated and thrilled. I can hear her saying "Wonderful, dear!" in my mind, and know that she'd be one of my top go-to people when I felt the need to rant and rave about all the little stressors that make up the process of moving. I'd rat a tat tat away on my keyboard, sending her any number of emails and would always get a reply to each one.
In fact, over the past months, I have at times gone into my email files, opened up the one labeled "Margot" and read through some of her sage advice on other matters just so that I could "hear" her calming voice most likely pointing out a few things I had over looked; or, to read some of her more humorous ones where she might be recounting something silly she did as a child or making a wry comment on the lack of someone's intelligence. Due to the fact my computer crashed not long after I learned about her illness, I have two separate email files for her, the one prior to her illness and the one after. Although it's sometimes too much to bear to read the ones from the prior file, I have to hand it to dear Margot that the tone of the ones in the after file remained, for the most part, true to what her character was and how she almost always interacted with me. Through the emails I can reconnect with her, something I am so very grateful for.
When I first learned of her illness and the likely, awful prognosis, I set about writing a series of emails to her that I labeled "Memories of Margot". Unfortunately, I didn't get very far before she was beyond the ability to read them. I also started on a story telling of the times the two of us shared in England in 1980 (it's about half done) and, after her death, began work on a memorial that will both have pictures of her throughout her life and tell her life's story. Working on this has been difficult at times but it's something I want to do and I want to do it well. As such, it's taken a bit longer than I originally anticipated but I know that she'd understand. I might share some of these memories here, which would also be fitting since she was an avid reader of my Blog.
I've not had many dreams about her and those that I have she's never herself as she was during the stages of her illness, and, in fact, she's always much, much younger than the sixty-eight she was when she died. One dream was particularly upsetting as in it, I had to tell her that she was dead, upon which she promptly burst into tears. Another, however, was much more positive and even helpful.
After she died, my Father and I were both puzzled to read in a document that she left behind for us that she wanted her cousin's daughter to have a certain "Civil War Era Buckle Ring". We'd looked at one another, perplexed, as neither of us knew what she was referring to. There was another, different, ring that she wanted another cousin to have, that we knew and had identified that ring. But, this? I later found a letter she'd written to the cousin's daughter detailing the ring's history, which, although explained the ring's origins and who had owned it, did nothing to assist us in figuring out where the ring was currently located. While I was there in March, Father and I spent some time looking for it, to no avail. Father told me on the phone a month or so later that he was convinced he'd looked pretty much everywhere it might be. Time marched on and both of us became involved in other things to think about so the elusive buckle ring remained missing. Several weeks before Mr. B and I were due to return to Florida, I had the helpful dream. In it, I was standing inside a grocery store near the front entrance with my Father and my friend Peri. The three of us were each glancing around the store, trying to locate Margot, because as was typical of Margot, she walked into the store and promptly charged off, leaving the three of us behind. In the dream, Father and Peri went off in opposite directions to find her while I stayed put in case she wandered by. Sure enough, Margot (probably aged 45 or so) walked up and stood next to me. While we waited for Father and Peri to show back up, I said to her, "Oh, by the way, Margot, where the heck is this Buckle Ring you want us to give to Dave's daughter?" She turned to me and said, "You have to look behind a picture". I woke up thinking there must be a clue in there somewhere! I told Father about it next time we spoke and also Googled "Civil War Era Buckle Rings" so that we'd have some idea of what we were looking for.
As it turned out, the ring was not behind a picture. Father looked and I looked and there was no ring to be found. One day, the last before Mark and I left Father's, I was standing in the shower thinking and thinking about this ring. Earlier, it had dawned on me that Margot had almost always routinely sewn items and family artifacts on her quilts. Father and I had both went to look at the quilt from the branch of her family it was most likely to be on. It was hanging in her bedroom, over her desk. Nope, nada. So, where was it? Finally, I remembered a quilt hanging in the closet in the guest bedroom; it had a love, marriage and family theme. Since the ring had originally been an ancestor's engagement ring, well, maybe it was there! I got out of the shower and went into the room and, sure enough, there it was, sewn onto that quilt. No, it wasn't behind a picture, but, it WAS behind a door.
What prompted this Blog entry today was I experienced one of those sudden painful moments earlier this afternoon while I was lying on the couch upstairs reading Roseanne Cash's autobiography "Composed". I was reading the part where she'd written the eulogy for her own stepmother, June Carter Cash. The eulogy was very beautifully written, which was pretty much all I was thinking until the very end where Roseanne says she knows when her time comes, she'll come around the bend while floating down the river in a canoe and see June standing on a dock waving "Hello! Hello! Welcome!" and I had such a clear image of my stepmother standing waiting for me wearing one of the hats she favored with pins from various tourist sites attached to the brim, ready to tell me all about where I was and show me around.
So, I got into the shower and cried and thought about how much I still miss her and knew that I needed to write about all of these things so that I could once again feel her near; and to let her know that she remains vividly alive in my dreams, thoughts, and heart.