I’ve lugged a clear container full of stale envelopes and blank notebooks around for 12 and a half years. I’ve stored, shoved, stacked, and ignored this plastic tote so long that I just got used to not opening it.
It even smells old now.
But this morning I woke up after five hours of sleep and felt inspired to clean it out so I could use it for something purposeful.
I discarded a bunch of faded envelopes. I stacked up a bundle of random cards with pictures of rabbits, flowers, and other uninteresting but nice pictures to donate. Then I skimmed through several empty notebooks.
And–that’s where I found them.
Our mother’s words.
They seemed so distant that I had to study the handwriting for a moment. But once I acknowledged the content, I realized what I had found.
Our mother’s voice.
Not a recording.
Her writer’s voice.
The one that can only be found through words in print. And even more so in words that were never meant for conversation.
Here’s the first page in one notebook.
“If you believe that I’ll eventually do that–you should request to be buried in a heavy Parka because Hell Will Have Frozen Over and you’ll need a warm coat there!”
There are more notes. But the first was powerful. Like a wave that I didn’t see coming.
What story was meant to follow?
I paged through the jotted phone numbers, to do lists, little reminders that filled the rest of the pad. I found an appointment slip for her rheumatologist at Duke. And I cried.
Then I opened the composition notebook and found more: a memory that became a scene, a story, with more to tell about a chilly spring morning in the mountains, with her brother and their momentary adventure.
A notebook that could have been lost–has been lost, but is here now. I’m considering typing it out in a future, dedicated post for her. Published.
Then I found more words beyond the story, a diary with only one entry. I’m not copying it here. I feel her actual words are for me and my sister. I wept when I read those words. I covered my mouth and screamed into my weeping.
I hadn’t shaken with such thunderous grief in a long time.
Her one diary is why I will write. Why I won’t care if this is all that I ever write or publish. Or if anyone ever likes or dislikes my writing. I will write because I have a story. Her words are part of my story.
Our story. Our past. Our life.
Her struggle. Her pain.
It made me who I am. It makes me write.
I will tell you a little bit. In summary. With her word choices mixed in here:
It begins with her describing how she woke up around 4am to heavy rainfall. Her head had come off her pillow during the night. She was in agony, in too much pain–her hands, her hips, her neck, her back, her knees– to return to her pillow. She laid there for hours until she could face the pain of moving her own body. Around 9am.
She describes breakfast. Cereal and took her meds. And how much she’s looking forward to moving and creating a much more accessible home. And after breakfast, the dogs decided to run away when she let them out so she had to yell for my sister to go and get them.
She talks about money. Not having enough to buy her medicines that month, or the one before that, nor the month before that because she spent too much at Christmas. How she screwed up her checking at Christmas and how she’s really feeling the effects now. And how there was “no way for us to have a decent life style, safe lifestyle and send (me) to school and pay all of that money for meds.”
How her medicines that she still had made her sick and that she had stopped taking her stomach medicine that kept her from feeling the other side effects, because of money. Then she said “well this is both boring and depressing.”
And then she said, “The up side of this day was I took (my sister) to Crabtree Mall and she got a nice dress not to wear to Winter Fest Dance.” And she describes how happy she was that she remembered that she had a visa that she was able to put the dress on because my sister “truly looked beautiful and seemed pleased.” And how she thought her heart would stop a few days ago when she realized the dress would be needed. But it was on sale.
It cost $29.00.