She ambles around the dining table and wants to set an extra plate at the dinner table. The dish clanks against the wood as the emptiness reverberates in the air. She’s made all of his favorites: Indian dal, potato curry, and rice pudding. The strong smell of curry sweep the room and her hand dances as she stirs the various textures in her favorite cooking pot. She clings to the past, but it offers her comfort. There is no denying it. She misses him. Everyday. And no one will ever take his place.
This is the voice of a widow. It is also the voice of my mother.
In the middle of making dinner, she makes a grand announcement, “I miss him everyday. I miss him so much.” I am paralyzed. I don’t know what to say. I ignore her words and try to distract her. My actions probably ring of callousness, but sometimes your words aren’t prepared to offer a balm to this kind of loneliness. How do I comfort my mother? I do nothing, but turn the conversation into some irrelevant comment about nothing in particular. “You should really try this new peppermint bark, Mom.” My hopelessness punctuates each word.
This loneliness is hard. Real hard. Everyday my mom talks about some remember when.
“Remember that Dad loved pears.”
“Really he loved pears? I didn’t know that.”
“Ya, he really liked red pears. He said they were the most delicious.”
Everyday there is a new “remember when” that echoes deep. The “remember when’s” center on my Dad’s favorite likes and dislikes and where they would go and what they would do. And sometimes the tint of the memory is happy, other times angry, and in-between all of these recollections, there is always a huge slice of sadness.
It gives me a chance to prepare myself, when I hear those two words, “remember when.” Aren’t we all one day, going to say, “remember when?” about someone we love and lose? And why do we not take these “remember when’s” more seriously? Why do we take for granted what beauty we experience with those we love the most?
It is easy to lose sight of what is. Because we are constantly looking for the details of a life that we think we want. The real lessons are to treat all those moments that can be potentially “remember when’s” as the most precious gift.
Now, when I am in the middle of a red pear moment, I pay attention.
It’s too risky to remember when. Because I hear this voice. Too loud. Too much. And it pains me because it is the voice of my mother.