Thursday, August 13, 2015

Secret Handshake

1,460 days without her. 

My mom wasn't really physically affectionate but for as long as I can remember if she was comforting me she ran her fingers all around the back of my head absentmindedly as if she were trying to feel for something she lost.

When I was six I lost my blanket on Christmas eve. Blanket was an over statement,  it was a tiny, satin scrap of blanket binding. She sent me to the car to see if it was there, it wasn't.  All of my packages from Santa were. I was heartbroken and I remember crying into her shoulder while she stroked the back of my head until I feel asleep.

When I was 22 I told the biggest lie of my life.  He asked me if I loved him.  He'd been asking me for weeks, but this was my last chance,  he was marrying someone else tomorrow.  I loved him more than I have ever loved anyone before or since but I was afraid.  "No," I said, looking him right in the eyes,  "it's just sex." And the next day he married her.  I completely fell apart, I have no idea why I thought he wouldn't do it,  but I was bereft. I spent what felt like days with my head in my mom's lap her fingers circling the back of my skull, never stopping while I cried my eyes out.

When I was 26 I had my first baby, he was 6 weeks early and I hemmoraged.  My mom never left my side; her fingers searching the back of my head, moving through my hair in an ever changing but completely familiar pattern.

When I was 32 I got married. Just before Erin walked me down the aisle, my mom brushed my cheek with the back of her hand and put her fingers under my veil, on the back of my head. I may have imagined it, but I swear she traced a heart with her finger and then kissed me on my forehead.

When I was 34 I had twins, they were 6 weeks early also. I hemmoraged again, it was more serious. They told my husband and my mom to leave. They wouldn't let me hold my babies.  With a nurse trying to physically pull my mom from the room she put her fingers behind my head, looked me in my eyes and said, "you will be okay." They forcibly pulled her from the room.

When I was 39 my mom came to live with us.  We were in her room unpacking her things.  I dropped something in front of her as she sat on her bed. When I bent over to pick it up she grabbed my head.
"I wonder if I can still find it." She said moving her fingers quickly over the back of my skull.
"Find what? " I asked still bent over with my head in her hands
"You have a birthmark on the back of your head," she said, "here it is!" And her fingers stopped moving. It's my last specific memory of her doing that.  My whole life, every moment of comfort I remember; it had a meaning for her too. Such a small thing,  but my mom wasn't as sentimental as I am; that small thing meant a lot to me.

When I was 40 my mom died. I cried in her lap until they made me leave. It's been 4 years today.  Sometimes I think I miss her more with every passing day.  Just recently I noticed that I play with the spot on the back of my head when I need comfort.  It feels ever changing but familiar,  like a secret handshake with my mom.


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