I wrote this piece several days ago. Most of this lament came out in one sitting as it appears here. The formal tone in this seemed fitting for the mood that I was in, even though I had a very warm and loving relationship with both my mum and dad. I had found out that my dear aunt will be celebrating her 90th birthday(!). I was in a reflective mood, thinking about mothers, mine in particular, and age and the thought that I would love to talk to her again. If I could place a phone call to Heaven, what would I tell her? What would she tell me? We get so caught up in the stories of our lives that we forget that the older generation that raised us has their own stories to tell. We think we know our parents, until they are gone and we can’t ask them questions any more. I thought I had listened to my mother’s stories, but I realized, as I was going through her possessions after she died, that I didn’t know much about many of them. Who gave her the hand-made metal ring with the X’s and O’s on it? Which of her older brothers gave her the bracelet from France during WWII? Why did she keep that particular ribbon that I found in her hope chest? I can no longer ask her, but how I wish she could tell me more.
Dear Mother, tell me more about your mud pies, your broken arm, your quarantine for measles in those Depression days. Tell me more about where you were raised, and your mother and coal miner father. About those irascible brothers of yours, my uncles who loved you and have been loved by me: The one who raised you, the one who teased you, the one who caught hell from your father for not protecting you. The one who left to go to war. The others who followed.
Tell me more about moving when the mine went dark. About leaving your best friend behind, finding new ones in your new school, and how you found the love of your life on the roller rink. Tell me more about these rings that I cherish, that I remember resting gracefully on your hand even after he passed into the arms of Jesus.
Tell me more about your life as a young newlywed couple, the lack of money, the abundance of love. About my brother, about me. Tell me how you rejoiced at his birth and cried because of me. Help me remember your nurturing hands and loving arms, your pride in all we did. Tell me. How did you feel? I want to know more.
Tell me about my wedding. Tell me about your happy tears as I walked down the aisle on the arm of your man and into the arms of mine. Tell me about the sad tears that fell as we moved across the country, away from you. Tell me how one survives the cleaving. As a parent, I need to know.
We kept you waiting, so tell me about your elation to hear of your new grandchild. Tell me. Tell me once again how happy you were to hear. I could see it. You love was visible, but I want you to tell me more. Tell me about that love that is so much more than a parent knows. Tell me about being a grandparent. I’m not sure that I will become one, so I need you to tell me more. Just in case.
Tell me about your last trip with him to where the country began, searching for family history, for roots. What did you find there? Tell me more about your thrill of discovery. A new ancestor. A new connection from long ago. Now that you know who we were, who are we now? I can only pick up the thread you left and hope that it leads me down the same path. We are family, but you are no more. Am I still a daughter without you? Tell me.
I desperately want you to tell me more. But you cannot; you are not here. You are my past, but such an ever-present notion in my head reminding me of the future you wanted for me. Telling me that there are more days to come. That I have more to live. You are no longer here, but you still exist in love, in my heart, in who I am. Even so, how I wish you could tell me more. I would listen closer.
And remember it all.
Because I still have a lot of things I want to know.
How I wish I had asked you more.