In Blue Nights, one of my favorite authors, Joan Didion, writes of her daughter:
“You have your wonderful memories,” people said later, as if memories were solace. Memories are not. Memories are by definition of times past, things gone…Memories are what you no longer want to remember.
Queen Joan is right. Mama memories are for me, at least they are right now, horrid images of her last two days alive. They are shitted sheets and final breaths. A bald head and eyes half closed. They are of me, sitting beside her bed and reading the poem I’d written for her in February but didn’t finish until the coroner came and blocked the driveway. They are stains that even Clorox can’t remove. Scars. This is how it is now but I’ve walked this floor before. In 1989 I lost my first mother. I felt sure I would die as well. The grief was torrential and infinite. It oozed from me. But I survived and I’ll survive again. Mercifully, the horrible memories will fade (but never disappear) and the good times will take the front seat on the bus. Right? Diaper memories will be sucker-punched by images of her dancing to Al Green. Mama slicing onions for her dressing that her nieces fought over; Mama shushing the room when the Final Four was on; Mama asking me should she wear the black pants to her 80th birthday party or the beige skirt. But see, uh oh, now I’m about to cry because the black pants are still in her closet just hangers away from the mushroom-colored skirt and eventually I’m going to have to go through her things and I will collapse and explode into one, big hot tear. Screw memories, but that’s just how I feel right now. She’s only been away since June. The blood is still wet on my emotional bandage. I’ll be ok. The ghastly final photos in my head will be kicked out by mental pictures of the time we went to New Orleans and Mama rocked her head to the music of Florida A&M’s marching band; the hundreds of moments she’s laughed when I’ve said hey Mother before she even says it’s her on the phone. I’ll be ok, it’s just these damned memories that won’t go away. Thank God.
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