It has been five and a half weeks since my mother died.
The phrase “and I still haven’t’ really cried” keeps coming to my lips, as if there’s a certain moisture emission density that is necessary to be a proper mourner. But it is true that I have not cried a lot, more often oozing a bit of wetness here and there. It just seems like such a significant absence – no tears. No sobbing or heaving, or not much.
Last night, I had one of those dreams – the sort where you discover that your dearly departed loved one is actually alive and well. My mother turned out to be at the mall which in real life was one of her favorite places. She was people watching, one of her favorite activities with a Diet Coke in hand. And she lost track of time. I was standing in my childhood home when I learned this while my father was cooking dinner and some other adult man was helping me try to catch a stray kitten. In she comes, I’m in shock. Everyone is like “oh yes there was a mixup” and goes about their business, so I follow suit and wonder how on earth I’m going to notify everyone without taking a moment to notify myself.
Yesterday was also the first time I’ve left the house since she died. I’ve been in the car, driving my wife to work or getting gas or riding along to pick up the groceries and of course to my cat colonies. But I haven’t actually socialized except for one evening when our good friends invited me over for a comfort food dinner and lots of emotional support. I haven’t gone to a restaurant, a Starbucks, or anywhere.
Truth be told, that’s not atypical for me. I don’t go out much. But atop of fears of running into spontaneous outbursts of “Lets Go Brandon” chants and people in general, I’ve been struggling with my allergy symptoms and the ongoing “What’s Wrong With Sue?” medical journey that depletes me of much energy or stamina. Add in grief, strip away my filters, and I’m likely to say or do anything so I just don’t go. I’d soon just be alone.
But yesterday was different. One nibbling had a birthday (15) earlier this month, another has his in early April (14) so a few months ago, I was debating how to celebrate with them. I miss all four of them a lot. I am in touch and we’ve spent time together, but not really, you know? So I asked my friend Lee Dingus, a Nod-doh-wa-ge-no (Seneca) Artist and Educator, if we could set up a workshop experience but just for the four niblings and affiliated adults. She was great – secured us the use of a location, etc. We set it up for 90 minutes then cupcakes, but it lasted three hours. And then cupcakes.
I’d highly recommend this idea for a small gathering of your own – they brought lots of things to show us, the stories flowed freely, they took questions and really listen to the children. Echoes of the Four Directions They are educators, not a sideshow for hire as entertainment. They founded this work after being frustrated by the misinformation and misguidance spinning into the world under the guise of knowledge about Native culture. I admire that.
It was cold and drafty in that old barn. We had a port-a-john and my phone was not fully charged. The kids and adults got a little restless. The conversation veered from topic to topic.
I loved it. I felt more alive, more connected, more energized than I had in forever. I learned a ton and asked many questions. One of the birthday kids sat next to me. I put my arm around his chair and he leaned against my shoulder a few times almost unconsciously. I held him like that for a long while as we listened. It was unspoken comfort for both of us after two very hard years and much sadness. I thought to myself “This child feels comfortable and secure with me” and I needed that. He’s done that many times over the years and it makes me weep inside to know he considers me a touchstone. I’m just there and familiar and bring him books and ice cream.
I don’t know how much everyone else appreciated it, especially the length, because the conversation got uncomfortable. Lee and her husband pushed us a bit to reconcile ourselves with how the erasure of Native American culture and people isn’t something that just happened years ago, it happens today. Example A is the recent inclusion of a high school marching band that used racist slurs, offensive imagery, and demeaning slogans around Native American cultures as part of their performance in the famous Disney World parades. This was last week. March 2022.
Now this was awkward because some of those with us are very big fans of Disney. Then Earl and Lee addressed the issues around the Boy Scouts and the YMC Indian Scout programs. The kids had participated in both. It was definitely a “come to Jesus” sort of calling in of allies moment and it was uncomfortable in that way that feels horrible, but necessary. I didn’t have the guts to ask anyone afterward about it. Three hours of socializing and then cupcakes almost wore me out. But I loved it. I love learning, I love conversation, I love thinking and being challenged and feeling safe.
I felt safe and comfortable and happy for a while yesterday. I was with the people I love most in this world, people who understand me (to some extent) and understand where I’m at with losing my Mum and my health challenges and my own obnoxious personality and still like me. I was pleased with myself for bringing “Ukraine cupcakes” from a Prantel’s bakery fundraiser and for remembering paper towels, hand sanitizer, and a box of tissue (allergies.)
We came home, took care of recycling and putting the trash at the curb, I went to feed my colony, and then we ate leftovers and watched tv. I was able to stretch out the
And then I slept and dreamed my mother was still alive, but no one had told me.
I’d just soon be alone.
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