When I was very young, evenings in my family were spent on the one couch we had, watching the one television we had. My mom would lay on it, always in the same spot, and because I was the baby, I got to be the one of us seven kids to lay on top of her. It was an incredible feeling of comfort and protection and warmth; when I want my mommy, that is the distinct feeling that I seek.
I remember laying there one evening when I was about the age my son is now. She called me her baby, as she always did, but this time I asked her how long she'd be calling me that. She said I'd always be her baby. I asked if she'd be saying that when I was an adult, even more so not a baby. In good humor, she negotiated with me a cut-off date: when I turned 81. (This had been her counter to my opening offer of 80.)
In the year that she was sick and in the years since she died, I've thought of this moment very often but have never been able to speak of it. When I allow myself to wade into the emotional depths, I wonder what she thought of that conversation. Did it make her sad to know, even on that day, not quite two decades before she got sick, that we weren't going to make it there? Or did she even think about it in those terms? Was it just some crazy thing I was saying, on top of all the other crazy things I must have been saying? I really hope it was that last one. I hope for her sake that she never, ever thought about it again. Because having lost her, thinking about that conversation -- just the conversation -- with Abbott is unbearable to me. I can't even write this without crying.
My mom would have turned 74 today. Happy birthday, mama. I miss you. And I am still your baby.