29 October 2011

How can it be snowing? It was barely summer when she died. Today is an aberration, but my life is guided by aberration; the life expectancy of an American woman is 80.4 years, so by that figure, my mother, and those who love her, were robbed of 23 years (remember the provenance of bereaved: bereafian "to deprive of, take away, seize, rob"). 23 years more years would not ready me to lose my mother, but 23 years more is what we should have had. There would have been weddings, our children, joys that she would have delighted in, sadness that she would have led us through.  My mother didn't do for rightness, but for the believing in the rightness, the knowing of what rightness is. There are storms in the world, hurricanes and earthquakes and devastation, yet we are short on the perfect storm of rightness, a wind that always blows north. I follow my mother's wind, I sniff the air in search of her path to follow.

My mother would have been the best old woman. I want (insufficient and bears no weight under my needs, that small word: want) to know that old woman. I will always be her daughter but I was only just becoming her adult daughter. When there is nothing more to come, no more from who you have lost, the mind becomes a hothouse of new and old. Though my mother lives no longer, our relationship lives to me, and as long as I am here, she will guide me. I will go forward, I will change, I will grow, but mothers can look into that prism of their children and see their future, though my mother is dead. Remember:

in my opinion you aren't dead. 
(I know dead people, and you are not dead.)

The girls lament the loss of summer. I did not know summer was ever here. It was warm while my mother was dying, and the sun was shining, and then rain poured from the sky when she died and R. sent me photos of a rainbow flashed from it's terminus on a dingy block, seemingly shot into the sky from the tumbled down, magic warehouse we were married in.

Now, there are no seasons. There is a circle from today back to April 3rd, the day I was married and I had the luxury of yelling at my mother to shut the door (I was nervous for 15 minutes before the ceremony). Up on the chair she went, during the hora we danced for her, with pure glee on her face, our small speed demon. And then, I mark the days that follow. The day she almost died in the hospital, the day chemotherapy was no longer an option, the last car ride together (in the back of an ambulance, just me and my mother, on her way home to die), the last kiss, the last hug, the last words I can't remember (watching your mother die is so very not like the movies), the last breath. There are no seasons, the cheap thrill of pumpkins or the first snow or blossoms to mark time. There is today, and there is yesterday.

I will make it okay, because she taught me how. But I want more than okay. I want the algorithm that teaches me how to live in the shadows of her beating heart. I want my mother.

11 October 2011

Childhood is my temple.

Last night, I was with my mother for the first time since she died. My friends have told me that she visited them, in a pink terry cloth robe (she had one, covered in ducks) to admonish one for being too hard on himself, or to another she came, with a bowl of strawberries so red, so fresh, they were near psychedelic (she had forced strawberries upon her best friend, "Eat them, eat them!" and commanded us to set out fruit for our guests towards the end, when food barely passed her lips). For the first time since she died, I was not remembering her, it was not what she would have said, what she used to say. She was with me. For a breath, she was with me. In my black and white bathroom, I said aloud, "Mom, where are you?" and from behind my left shoulder she answered. "I'm right here, my girl."

A few days before she died, I sat on our deck (outside, I could not do this in the house she slowly breathed in) and made arrangements for her body to be prayed over and laid in a simple pine box, for that is what Jews do, and my mother was so proud to be a Jew. We did not have her buried in a shroud. Instead, she wears the dress she wore to my wedding, her moose fleece, and on her left pinkie is the same gold ring that is on mine. It says "LAMB", for us, her and my brothers (and you, too, Uncle B.).

The moths of mourning are eating holes in my shroud. The stillness, the rigidness keeps me upright, but the pole is loosing ground, the tide is having its way. Saturday was Yom Kippur, and tears poured down our faces (me and Michael - we were not crying, the physicality of it passed the emotion of crying) as we listened to the Rabbi's sermon - he lost his mother a few months before we, ours, and we felt he was speaking to us, about her, when he spoke of those who have gone too soon. My mother was only just 57 years old.

I sit, I write, the stillness is back - it was gone when I took up my pen, the tears poured, but in an instant, they disappear. Next to me is the Book of Remembrance, printed every year for Yizkor, filled with names of those remembered to G-d on the holiest day of the year. It looks the same, but it is not. The year is 5772 (which means Petey is 72) and my mother's name is listed inside, three times. Blanche Batnick. Blanche Batnick. Blanche Batnick. We too look the same. Leigh Michelle. Adam Ross. Michael Henry. We look the same, but we are not the same. We are wounded. We must learn to live wounded.

May G-d remember the soul of my mother, my teacher, Bloomie, who has gone to her supernal world, because I will - without obligating myself with a vow - donate charity for her sake. In this merit, may her soul be bound up in the bond of life with the souls of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, and with the other righteous men and women who are in Gan Eden; and let us say, Amen.

01 October 2011


My grandfather turns 90 in a few weeks. The world has changed since 1921, and my world has changed in the ninety some odd days it has been since my mother has died. I hold his hand and listen to him talk about my grandmother, gone 6 years, the love of his life, and he is the door in the cupboard. He longs for her, he misses her, his cough rattles deeper through his bull-like body, and he prepares to meet her again. On Rosh Hashanah, we sat alone and I listened to him again tell the story of coming home, one early afternoon, from getting whitefish salad for my grandmother. He sat down next to her, she lifted her hand to his face. Her hand dropped, her throat rattled (it is true, the death rattle happens, I didn't know if it would but it did, it began the night before my mother died and it terrified me) and she was gone, but she is never gone. Before he sleeps he sings her the anniversary song, "I remember the night, when we danced, la la la..." and as he sang it to me, soundless tears poured down my face. He cut the challah at my wedding, and I can feel him getting ready to go to her. He is here, but he is going there, and I want to say, "Poppy, send me a postcard. Let me know that they are all right. Slip this letter in your pocket for my mother. Kiss her for me. Millions of kisses, please, Poppy."

I miss the fresh feeling, the daze and haze of the world without my mother. Three months later, I do not understand her absence more than I did then, but I sit easily next to this feeling, or the place where my feelings ought to be. The passing of time signifies to the world healing and understanding, but for me time robs me of the cloak of sympathy. How can I heal what I do not understand? On Thursday, for the first time since her funeral, I went to temple. I saw the plaque with her name and date of death. I did not think of her funeral: I thought of the velour that used to cover the chairs stratching my small legs, under the short plaid dress my Nana Hannah bought for me at Bib and Tucker with it's thick-planked, creaky, gleaming wood floor. I thought of braiding my father's tallis when I was very young and my parents were still married. Most of all I thought of fingering my mom's jewelry during services, the pearls and diamonds and cut jade bracelet that is now mine. One day, Adam will give a girl my grandmother's engagement ring (it was in a box in the vault, my mother wrote on the box "for Adam, love Nanny" and Michael will give a girl my mother's engagement ring. They won't be able to call her, like I did, and whisper "Mom, I'm getting married." My boys, I am so sorry you will not have that joy. But, there will be joy, the joy of watching what magnificent husbands and fathers you will one day be. For now, my boys, you are magnificent sons and brothers, and I am so proud of you. Mom is, too. You give her such nachas.