Friday, June 27, 2008


Mom was leaning over the back of the recliner in the den. We were chatting casually about her upcoming anniversary celebration. She matter-of-factly stated that "On this day I will have been a 'Peterson' longer than I was a 'Little'."
I didn't understand what she meant and told her so.
She patiently explained that, on this wedding anniversary, she will have had her married name longer than she had her maiden name. Therefore, she had spent more of her life as a 'Peterson' than a 'Little'.
"That's a good thing, right?" I laughed.
"Yes it is," she replied.
We moved onto other topics but I never forgot that moment.
My Mom died in 1984 when I was nineteen years old. I waited for nineteen more years to pass. Every year I went to the cemetery on birthday's, Mother's Day, Christmas, the anniversary and whenever the mood struck. Every time I went to the grave I would kneel and run my hands over the stone, feeling the raised letters beneath my hand as I read her name. The cold stone was unyielding as I moved my hand over the RN symbol engraved next to her name. And I would read the date: 1984. Finally, I would place a single red rose in the vase and quietly say "Hi Mom."
And I would softly cry.
For nineteen years.
And nineteen years was nothing.
The first 19 years of my life were a blur. I hadn't even started coming into my own until my late teens. I knew nothing about the world, myself or my parents. It wasn't until I was eighteen that Mom and I were spending time together as adults. On my early release days from college I would take Mom out to lunch. Sometimes we went to JJ's, sometimes we went to Lake Palace and sometimes we just ate together at home. During this time, I realized that I was getting to know "Joan" and not just "Mom". Joan had some funny stories to tell. She had some sad stories, too. But she had stories. Listening to these stories I realized that Mom had been a kid, too. She had girlfriends and boyfriends, arguments with her parents and struggles in school. She had been a kid, just like me.
Who knew?
Getting to know Joan was a revelation for me, because I vowed that if I was ever someones Dad, that my child would know who and what I was long before they were eighteen. And, for the most part, I think that I have done this with Jenna.
Anyway, I was just getting to know Mom when she was taken from me.
And I only had 19 years to know her. This is not a long time. But the next nineteen years was a lifetime.
Finally, November 5th, 2003 was approaching. This was a milestone. Because 19 years was everything.
On the nineteenth year plus one day, Mom had been gone longer than I had known her.
And, somehow, this was cathartic to me.
Because I stopped crying.
Now I realize that I have one more mental hurdle to get over.
Mom died at 46 years old. When I am 47 years old I will have lived longer than she did, too. This means something to me, although I am not sure why.
Being adopted, I have no genetic tie to my parents. Therefore, their ailments are not mine. I have no reason to believe that the weak aortas and valves that have plagued Mom's side of the family will effect me too. I know this. Yet, I know that on that fateful day when I have outlived my mother that it will be the last hurdle that her death has placed in front of me.
Nineteen Years + One Day made all the difference to me. 47 years will, too.
It makes no sense.
I can't explain it.
It just is.
The last hurdle.


Blogger Fox In Detox said...

Stop making me cry, dammit!
As usual, a well written and inspiring post. I'm going to call my mother now.

11:55 AM, June 27, 2008  
Blogger Cynthia said...

I forgot how closely similar our histories are. My father died of a heart attack at the age of 46 when I was 19.

Another great post from your heart.

6:21 PM, June 27, 2008  
Blogger 1st Lady said...

Tears in my eyes now!! It's lovely that you seemed to have had a very good relationship with your mum, and very fond memories too. She would love your blog and what a lovely story. I was given a 2nd chance with my mum only a few years ago and learned back then we should never take health and family for granted.

3:55 AM, June 28, 2008  
Blogger Letera said...

I am w/ Fox, a wonderful blog about your mom. I want to hear funny happy things on your next blog. You are such a sensitive writer. Love it.

11:05 AM, June 28, 2008  

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