Saturday, December 31, 2005

Rituals

The last time I celebrated my mom's birthday with her, it didn't feel like much of a celebration. Five years ago, my dad, brother, sister, husband, and I crowded into her hospital room with a little cake we'd picked up at a bakery. We sang to her, and she managed a few bites of cake. She seemed better than she had over the past week when I'd spent hours sitting in her hospital room watching her sleep, talking to her, encouraging her to take a lap around the hall, but she was still obviously quite sick from the leukemia and the chemotherapy. Nevertheless, I was feeling less scared for her when Brian and I drove back up to our little house in Santa Cruz the next day.

She died three weeks later.

The next year would have been her 50th birthday. I spent time that day talking with my aunt about her. Every year since then, I have been aware of her birthday, but I haven't done anything to acknowledge it. Instead, when I've been in Southern California for Christmas, I have driven out to the hospital where we celebrated that last birthday, and walked through the Japanese garden where she liked to feed the koi when she was feeling well enough to go outside. I didn't make it out to the hospital this year, but in Northern California, my sister invited me to join her at Fort Point.

Every year on December 29, my sister has gone to the Golden Gate Bridge to wish our mother a happy birthday. This year I stood beside her at the base of the bridge, looking out at the water, the boats, the fog, remembering. The last birthday. The last visit in the hospital. The day we scattered her ashes from a boat, just inside the bridge. It was chilly and grey out, and those were the first memories to surface, matching the weather and my mood. I suppose it is part of my own ritual of remembering her each year to accept those memories, and then to remind myself of older memories, ones in which she is happy and healthy. Seeing her nurse my little brother. Getting into her bed at night when I was little and had a bad dream. Learning how to dip tortillas into enchilada sauce before filling them, and then rolling them just so.

I rested my forehead against my sister's back, and she dropped her head back to rest it on top of mine.

Golden Gate Bridge

2 comments:

ann said...

Ah, damn, that made me cry.

I wish I had the magic words to make it all better.

Jennifer said...

(;_;) me too

really beautiful post....