Our reality is a strange space. My mom is here, but not really here. And there are times when her not being here is a hole so big you can fall into it.
The day after my niece was born, I took dinner to my brother in the hospital. We sat on a bench by the entrance and remarked at how, for July, it wasn’t too hot, it wasn’t too humid, it was the perfect summer night. While the sun set, he told me about his new daughter and his wife, the whole ordeal as he experienced it, and how everyone had arrived on the other side, exhausted but healthy.
I asked him, “What do you think it would have been like if mom could be here?” It was a question that weighed 200 pounds and I lifted it from somewhere inside my chest and put it in his lap. He paused for a minute and in his characteristically even tone said, “You know, I think about that all the time.”
The truth was we both did. Especially with the baby. My mom took that role so seriously and derived so much meaning from it, that even in her absence, she had so much presence.
For the next half hour we imagined my sister-in-law’s pregnancy and the delivery if my mom had been there. My brother catalogued all the questions he’d wished he could have called to ask her. We laughed at how there would have been no respect for any boundaries or visitation schedules. She would have been at the hospital and that would have been it.
He told me about the memories that came back to him as he was refinishing the old rocking chair that my mom and dad had rocked us in as babies. We created an entire alternate reality of ‘what ifs’ till there was a whole version of a life where mom wasn’t lost.
And after a long pause my brother said, “We have to figure out how to be mom now that she’s gone.” His 200 lbs contribution to the conversation. We talked about what that meant. What was good about her that we had to commit to not losing? What would it mean for two brothers to be maternal, to be mom for each other, and for her grandkids?
And what was there on the bench in front of the hospital is what I think my mom most wanted for the two of us, unquestionable love and connection.