I write letters to my dead mother. Although much time has passed since her passage to the ethereal spirit world, she is within me, floating in the space of memory, forever embedded in past stories, the root of present stories.
As I age, she is more and more present— a guide, an invisible wise woman on the road ahead. As a child, perhaps, 8 or 9 years old, she had the wisdom to encourage my involvement in The Camp Fire Girls Organization. I left my safe neighborhood, took hikes in Baxter Woods, spent summers at Camp Hitinowa deep in the Maine woods, where female counselors taught me the importance of noticing a landscape, where new trees and fauna shaped or hindered our walking paths.
Mom did not hike nor go to the woods. A city person, she wrapped her identity around my father, her role as wife and mother, especially after both her parents died when I was two and a half. I never knew any of my grandparents, never saw them age. My maternal grandmother died in her fifties; my Mom died at ninety-three. I had the privilege of walking alongside her as she encountered the challenges of a failing heart.
She was open-minded and curious, a woman who shared her joys and worries. She trusted me; we problem solved together, especially during her latter years when her strength began to wane and it was necessary to consider options to assure her wish to live out her life as independently as possible.
I am cut from the same cloth— independent to a fault. I am grateful for the lessons learned—to know when and how to share vulnerability, to ask for help, to recognize and manage my own limits.
Mom lived on her own in a ranch style home up to the day of her death. Because of limited sight and unpredictable health events, she faced the dilemma of relocating to an assisted living community or inviting a caretaker into her home. With my assurance that we could place an ad in the Portland Press Herald and screen candidates for her final approval, she chose to limit her privacy in favor of maintaining her lifestyle.
During the last few years of her life, she had two caretakers. With their help, Mom continued to make her special spaghetti sauce and much loved molasses raisin cookies. Months after her death, I savored the small cache of sauce in the container labeled in her graceful handwriting.
No wonder, I occasionally sit down and write a “Dear Momma” letter, grateful for the steadfast memory of her voice, which comes forth as I write. She never witnessed my transition from writing poetry to writing real life stories.
I’m grateful she read several of my early poems— many of which were about her. In response to the poems, she said, “Does it make you happy?” If she were to ask the same question about this post, I would say, “not so much happy as pleased.”
For prior post referencing Camp Hitinowa, see The Return— https://fayewriter.com/2016/02/29/