I can't even type it. I don't form the words in my head, let alone in my mouth or through my fingers. I play pretend. I push it down. I say it flippantly, but I don't really say it because I don't want to believe it. I can't believe it. It's not real.
There are plenty of words. Too many words, too many stories, too many things that my mom still needed people to know about her. Too many things she still needed to see. But none of the words I think to put here seem right. Not one story or a million will keep her here.
A year ago we were conspiring about surprising my sister for her birthday. There were hushed calls and secret plans. We flew to Chicago and stayed Christmas night so we could surprise Andria the next afternoon. My parent's room had huge windows spanning the corner. She pretended she was doing business at the desk. My kids laughed as she made fake calls. We surprised Andria and the boys. We colored. We ate at Panera. She had Butternut Squash Soup because she liked to try different things. We took silly goodbye pictures and she smiled the smile that lit up the room. She laughed her laugh. We flew home and she was so mad that she couldn't find a moment to slip out for a smoke. I didn't see her again until January.
How did I let that happen? How did I go so long between visits when we live so close. I didn't celebrate my birthday last year. I was a brat about it. We went to Huntsville, but I wouldn't celebrate. She wouldn't have it. My mom loves birthdays. She got me a sugar-free Marion Berry Pie because I was ridiculous about sugar at the time. She couldn't just let it pass this year, just like she never did growing up. She would save her vacation days and always take our birthdays off. Even when I was in college, she would come see me. The roads are awful between Dayton and Pullman in January. But she would come anyway. I would say to her, "can you believe your baby is 21!", or "30!", or "or 39!"
There was always too much time in between visits. I did see her for her birthday and again on Mother's Day. She sat on the porch while Tony and James put together a whirly-gig. We both took a picture of them working from opposite sides. Looking at the same scene from different points but still both feeling like it was the important moment to capture. It is the last picture I have of my mom being my mom.
Time is a funny thing. Birthdays like those mean you are grown, but I wasn't. I'm not.
I still need my mom. Every single day I think to call her. Every single day I wonder if she knew how much she meant to me, even though we were often on opposite sides of view. I wonder if she knew that I know how alike we are even through our differences.