As I write this, it has been two weeks since mom's passing. This is the first weekend of the rest of my life without a parent. The loss of both parents, though six years apart, leave such an unexpected void. Taking the presence of parents for granted feels very normal. I had my dad for 53 years. I had my mom for 58 years. Such a strong presence isn't easily filled.
My relationship with my mom was a close one. The last three years were closer still and since July, intensely close. On reflection, my life has gone from big picture, to sharp narrow focus, to an absolute pinprick of focused tunnel vision. Each narrowing of my attention to her took something away from me but it was something I gladly let go of.
It wasn't always easy and, in fact, was often tiring and frustrating for both of us. The last three months have been painful like the slow peeling away of a band-aide. We "know" a quick tug is best and it's over with quickly but when it is about the letting go of a life, I dont think there is a right or wrong way. There is just a "way". I know that if I had given up or given in to the inevitable right away, I would have missed so much.
I would have missed the chance to encourage her to fight for the return of her strength; I would have missed mom making a connection with Doris and their handholding friendship and her pleasure in seeing "The Sound of Music" once more on Margie's TV. I would have missed giving her a manicure, hand & foot massages, quiet moments of just looking at each other. Those final humms of song the day before her death would have been missed. I would not have had the chance to slowly assimilate the closing of her life and come to a degree of acceptance. And most of all, we would not have had the chance to be with her in a peaceful good-bye and the certain knowledge that dad, along with mom's own parents were all welcoming her home.
So, what now . . . . .?
One of the things I've lost over the years is my motivation to do anything creative. My focus, almost 100%, has been on the needs of my mother. While I was losing my creative motivation, I was more importantly, losing my mother in bits and pieces. To see your parent go from healthy and active to helpless in an instant is painful beyond imagining until you are actually experiencing it. You lose more than your parent; you lose a part of yourself, your ability to continue the normal parent/child relationship that never really leaves no matter how old you are. Your parent is your parent.
Over the last couple of days, I've become aware of an empty space within me that before now was occupied by my mother. Suddenly I find myself without daily purpose beyond work and husband and daughter. Suddenly there is all this room within me and I don't know what to do with it.
Last spring I managed to commit to taking an on-line art journal class through Artella and I actually completed quite a lot of the work that was assigned. But then the class was over and the motivation was gone. And then mom tripped and I was consumed and overwhelmed by the urgency to fix her, make her strong again, SAVE her. It took me three months of peeling away the layers of painful reality to let go of the hope of recovery from such a simple thing, a trip in the bathroom, and its dire consequences.
So this morning I awoke, knowing for two days that this would be the first weekend of the rest of my life without my mother OR my father. Last weekend didn't count. She was still with us as we planned her funeral. This weekend is the start of something entirely new. What will I do? Now what? The question is like a huge gong echoing in my head.
Actually, the change started last night. I took out my art journal for the first time in six months. There is a page in progress now and it will be interesting to see where it ends up. But this morning at 5:30 I had another idea.
I love the old gas pumps I found a few months ago and the photo was begging for a conversion. First to B/W. Then I went to work with software and pastels. The watercolor effect please me but I don't feel connected to the color. Next step, print the B/W on watercolor paper, use my WC pencils, blend, and frame. Perhaps that will provide a storng feeling of being connected to the piece.
I'm surprised at the number of parents who discourage their children from pursuing artistic/creative careers. I see it every year as the newest group of muisc majors enter our program. Mom never discouraged me. I was my own worst enemy and self-discouraged literally for decades. When I was most separated emotionally from my creative impulses, she was always there encouraging me. I think mom would be very happy with me today.