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 Short Story

Daughters Who Live Longer Than Their Mother's Death Age

By Carol Dee Meeks

He watched Ellen cut two inches off the end of the pot roast and placed the remainder into the pan. “Why do you mangle that cut of meat?” Stu asked. She laid the knife down and threw the small portion of meat into their dog’s dish. “Because my mom did it.”

“Why did your mom cut if off” Stu asked.

“I don’t know, but when I see her again, I’ll ask, “She answered as she swung the pan into the oven. Several days later, Ellen’s mom stopped by, and she remembered her husband’s inquisitiveness. “Mom, why did you always cut the end off your pot roast?” Ellen asked as soon as her feet touched the carpet. A smile covered her mom’s face and she jumped upon the barstool. “Because my mom did it,” she replied. Realizing the mystery was not solved and Stu would keep wondering why two grown women engaged in severing nice cuts of meat; she knew she had to cover the groundwork for this thirty-year plus puzzle. “Mom, let’s call Granny and ask,” Ellen urged with excitement in her voice. “I have to know, Stu thinks this is expensive dog food.”

“Hello,” stretched across the phone lines and filled the silence in the kitchen. “Hi, Granny, this is Ellen. I need to know why you cut the end off your pot roast.” She dropped the phone into her mother’s hand and waited in silence. They looked at each other and yelled, “Because her pan was too small!” Even though a joke, I charted my knowledge knowing daughters pattern and clone their lives as they’ve seen their moms live and react. But what happens when daughters live longer that the age of their mother’s death? How do they stitch the pieces back together?

Mothers buoy courage to make the life of their offspring better than they feel theirs was. Working mothers especially need top-notch day care, and they want a safe, loving environment. Moms go beyond limits to provide what their children need. And as they grow in this caring and nurturing habitat, the pattern is established; it is permanently secured; it is made stable. The course may vary at times, but the basis is fundamentally sound particularly for daughters. When death decreases half a family’s parents, how do daughters pilot and oversee the guiding years of their lineage? Coping is difficult. Weathering life without a mom is like a tropical storm always in the background. And then a tornado whirls another blow when daughters mature past the age of their mom’s age of death. What now? The person who loves you no matter what; the person who loves you unconditionally; the person who was your seamstress has left you for the second time. But this time, you’re really on your own. The motif, the design, the model, and the guide you had have been destroyed. Before now, you remembered her ways and her methods; you remembered her responses and her attitudes; but death has placed you beyond her age of expiration. You have to relearn to live like an uncharted voyage; you design a dress without a form.

Jane Johnson, veteran RN at Roswell, New Mexico’s Hospice Center said “The burden of grief is the same for all motherless daughters. But it’s doubled when you live beyond your mother’s age of death. Your mom is your role model. Your comparison guide is gone, and now you are on your own”. It was that unlucky number 13, when my luck ran out. My mom apologized. She closed her eyes. And then she left me December 13, 1964. I was barely 20 when she expressed her regrets. I was numb when she said, “I can no longer stand the pain. Will you take care of your sister? She needs you.” Then she looked at my fiancée and said, “Pat, will you take care of Carol?” We both nodded, yes, in agreement. Then she was gone. There were not enough marshmallows in the world to stop-up or patch-up the hole in my heart that opened when the doctor told me, “She’s gone.” Even her thin parchment of skin and sunken temples didn’t stop me from praying, “God, please spare her another day.” Her cancer won the battle. She looked at peace for the first time in two years. But she was my mother; she wasn’t supposed to die. The miracle I had prayed for birthed two motherless daughters.

“Why God, why me?” I’m not ready to hem this dress. I’ m not ready to close this book. I’ve only started working on it,” I sobbed. More painful than telling a six year old her mother had gone to heaven, I was realizing she would miss my wedding, and my children would never be cradled in her love. My misfortune turned into a future with pinking shears. God cut me a windfall when He positioned Pat Meeks into my path. He and my mom doubled birthdays in July. Hers was July 11. His is July 8.

He is so much like her. Sometimes it’s painful to watch. Their gestures, their reactions, and their expressions echo each other. Unspoken words tears flooding my face. My husband soothed me with hugs without words like my mother would have done if she were still here. You see, her death only hurts like stab wounds six times a year: the anniversary of her passing, her birthday, my birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas, and the day Dad told me her body was weathered with cancer. The remaining days and months are as a dull toothache. No matter the amount of Excedrin swallowed, the dull ache remains. And Pat . . . he understands. He is there when I need him, and he gives me space when I need it. Her favorite time of year was Christmas. I sewed her a red suit for the last holiday, and she was buried in it. Some eyebrows were raised but it didn’t matter. She loved that outfit, and red was her favorite color.

I’ve often wondered why God deprived her of that l964 holiday. And if I don’t have my shopping and decorating done before the 13th of December, I’m in trouble. And I want to decorate for love of Christmas not labor. She came alive at Christmas, and she transferred that love of the holidays over to me. It was agony at first. But I had a family, and I wanted them to love the hustle and bustle I had been schooled to love. Our kitchen found us decorating cookies and perfecting fudge. I felt these activities could bring her back and keep my family together forever. My boys would never know the pain of losing me. Well, that’s not true. Mothers die at any age, at any time, and for any reason. And Christmas trimmings can’t change that even though it did tailor us some family traditions.

In Hope Edelman’s Motherless Daughters, she states, “My mother’s death completely rocked my world. Mothers are immortal. Mothers don’t die young. Mothers never leave the children they love.” She also knows mothers aren’t the permanent glue we always thought they were.

The Roswell Daily News gave me an early Christmas present on December 13, 1995. On the anniversary of her death, one of my poems and a story was printed in the paper, along with my. My interview for this article was done in June. God made this gift possible, and it altered my attitude and how I cope with Christmas. The thirty-three Christmases without her and the loneliness that penetrated my soul was laid to rest. I’ m sure she smiled down on me as I hugged the inner glow my body experienced. I also knew she was proud of me. I knew I would forever miss her but in a different way. The hardships of being a motherless daughter have made me a stronger person. I know that God does not put more on us than we can handle. I know that I’ve had the greatest mom, and I have the greatest spouse. I tire wondering where her fashion would have led me. I don’t know how different I would be with her still alive, but The Roswell Daily News helped put all that wondering to sleep.

I have outlived her by eleven years, and I feel blessed that God allowed me to watch both my sons graduate from the college of their choice. They are established in solid careers. And my goal was to see them advance their lives to this point. Each new phase of my life is a lesson for me without my mom. But Pat and I walk through it together, and that was her craving for me.
Carol Dee Meeks
Copyright
© 1999
Carol's Site

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