And I called my mother when I got home.
"Hi, Mama!" I said. It was hit-or-miss whether she'd be awake at 10:30 p.m., Maryland-time, but I heard the TV in the background when she picked up. "I just came home from a beautiful memorial service for a friend's mother, and I thought about how glad I am that can still call my mother and tell her I love her. I'm glad I didn't wake you."
She said it would be alright to wake her up any time to tell her I love her. "Yes, I figured that," I said. We both laughed.
She told me she'd just gotten into bed and was watching TV "of course," as she does most of the day. Dad was already asleep, as he is now most of the day. She asked me what I'd done that day, and how Charles and Ariel (her son-in-law and grandson) were doing. Then she asked me to remind her where I'd been that evening, because that's how it is now; at 89 she repeats herself a lot, and asks people to repeat things for her.
We talked until I ran out of news, and she thanked me again for calling. "Wake me any time," she said, and we laughed again.
I poured myself a glass of red wine and went out to my writing room. It was just a night after the longest night of the year, the end of a friend's mother's life, nearing the end of my parents' lives. A storm was blowing in and temperatures were dropping. Not in the mood to put words on paper yet, I ran a bath to collect them in my mind.
I thought about how it surprises me now to see how readily my mother takes in love, as unguardedly as a plant takes up water. I resisted that neediness in my own younger, needier days, but in this late chapter of our lives I see how she craves approval and acceptance she didn't get as a girl. After a lifetime trying to see around my mother's shadow, I'm grateful now for this late chapter of my life as a daughter, when I can absorb her love - imperfect perhaps in its manifestation but perfect in intention - and offer her my own.
And I thought about my friend's mother, whom I never met yet feel I know through through her daughter's passion for learning and teaching, for family and friends, dance and writing. I thought about the phrase "intergenerational trauma," a juicy (and important) one these days. Maybe we underestimate the generational impact of love.
By the time I went back in the house, Charles had gone to bed. I crawled under the covers beside him, but not before removing the cat, Misty, who is a sweet foot-warmer while we're falling asleep but a pesty chatterbox in the middle of the night. No blame there; she just wants what any of us want, warmth, security and comfort, same as any good mammal. But we also want sleep. Out goes Misty, with two doors closed between us and her. We accept Misty's feelings, but her declarations, loving or otherwise, must wait until morning.