17 June 2011


Like many people, I grew up wishing on the evening star.  You know, “Star light, star bright…”- that wish.  I suppose when I was very young I wished for the kind of things that children wish for, like a puppy or a pony or a new toy.  I don’t remember those wishes.

From the time I was about 8 or 10 years old though, my wish was almost always for the same thing.  I wished for my parents to have a long and happy life.  I don’t know why I started wishing that.  I think it started when my maternal grandfather died.

I didn’t know my mom’s father.  I had met him twice, maybe three times.  He lived in Ohio and we lived in California.  It was a much bigger deal to fly across the country back then.  And, none of my family had money for that extravagance. 

The day we got the call that he had died, we were at our cousins’ house.  My mom’s sister’s house. It might have been someone’s birthday.  My mother and all of her siblings loved their father best.  Their mother was whiny and petulant (in retrospect I believe that she had a hard menopause), but their father was their champion.  He was the kind of dad who played with his kids, who was very fair and just and kind and loving.  He worked hard and loved them all and they knew that and felt secure.

My mother and my aunt fell to pieces when they got the call.  Their dad worked for the railroad at the time and had been hit by a train.  Later, the railroad tried to say that he had had a heart attack and fell off one of the cars, but in the end they settled with my grandmother and awarded her a miserly pension.

The pain, the crying, the despair, were overwhelming.  I had never seen my mother cry like that.  I had never seen my aunt cry at all.  They were strong young women with husbands and children and in an instant they were bereft little girls sobbing in despair.

I cried too.  I cried because it was sad that my grandfather had died, but mostly I cried because my mom was crying.  I sat in the front seat with her on the way home and she held me and cried.  And cried, and cried.

My mom was devastated.  I don’t know how long it took her to come to terms with her father’s death, but I think it was quite a while.  It worried me.  I worried that my parents might suffer some bizarre and tragic fate.  I was preoccupied with it at times, worried that my brothers and I would be left in the care of others, to be raised as poor relations.

Mostly, though, I couldn’t bear the thought of being without my parents.  I have the best parents in the history of parents.  I couldn’t bear the thought of them being dead and gone.  I couldn’t imagine how that could be.

And so, I wished.  I wished on the evening star every time I saw it.  I wished whenever we crossed a bridge and held our breath and lifted our feet off the floor.  I wished on birthday candles.  I wished on dandelions.  Any opportunity to make a wish and mine was the same.  “Please let my parents have a long and happy life.”  Always the same.  Always that need for the security of my family.

And now, that evening star has let me down.  My mom has been happy but she is only 75.  I don’t feel that she has had enough time.  When I wished for a long and happy life I was thinking they should live to be 100.  That’s long.  75 is medium.  It’s not enough.  I’m not ready and she’s not ready.  I feel like I am being robbed of 25 years of happiness, or my mom is. 

What was the use of all that wishing?  All of that focused energy directed to a specific outcome?  What good was it?  It served no purpose.  I am losing my mom too soon.  Now I am the bereft little girl, crying and wanting to say, “Don’t take my mama!”

I suppose that eventually I will be grateful for what I had.  I suppose that comes with time.  I hope so.  My mom is my best advocate, my champion, my fierce defender.  Nobody picked on Kathryn’s kids, because they could not take the wrath of my mother.  Who will be my defender now?  Who will stand up for me and defend me and believe in me?

Yes, I will still have my dad.  He is the other half of that equation.  I’m counting on him.  The thought of him without my mom is strange but he must carry on.  We need him.  My brothers and I are still their children.  Even at age 52, I still need my parents.

I don’t know if I’ll bother to continue wishing on that star.  It hasn’t helped.


Anonymous said...

Right now you are not crying alone. That was so touching and raw and beautiful and heart-breaking. Please don't stop wishing.

8thdayplanner said...

I read this post earlier and just couldn't come up with one word that I thought would be of comfort.

Tonight I went out and wished on a star. For you. For your mom. For all of us.

I am so sorry for your pain.

the only daughter said...

Calling all stars, calling all wishers. Do work.

weese said...

my wife used to work with hospice patients before my mom fell ill.
she advised me...during those long days and nights we were over there with mom - to thank her. to tell her out loud all the wonderful things i thought about her. and to thank her. and i would have added to that - to let her know that i (we) would be fine and not to worry.
i missed my opportunity to do that. things happened so fast, her mind went so quickly.
i am sure she knew, we were with her all the time.
tho i wish i had said it outloud.