“We’re here when you get back.”

The normality. The same old same old. The routine that defines the week, the day, the eight hours that one spends in the pursuit of the paycheck. That will be here when you get back. Everything labeled and organized. The desk, the computer, the people, the job. The bus rides, the staircase, the light switch. Everything will be here when you get back. Comfort there.

Of course, when I get back, I will be getting back from putting my mother’s husk in the ground. I say that because the coiffed and made up bean that was once human is not my mother. The thing in the box is simply the vehicle she moved through this part of the journey in. The shell is now empty. I wonder what happens to those shells. When I was a kid I would fill buckets with the shells of sea creatures. The homes of the eaten. They would pile up and smell and then, after they became too much, after they served their purpose of adornment or memory, they would be thrown away. Something lived in those shells once but, that something is no more. My mother’s shell is what is in the box, what will go to the ground. My mother is gone.

We say to a better place. A religious person will say she now sits with God. I hope not, for God’s sake. She wasn’t a big fan of God at the end. She didn’t believe in saints and salvation. So, if somehow she is sitting with God, I hope he has a sense of humor. I hope he can laugh at himself and love his creation that is now telling him he was just bullshit and he certainly could have run things better. Now, thinking about it, I hope she is sitting with God because, I bet God would get a kick out of her. She had a very facile mind, a very wry wit and she spoke a shitload of truth. Hopefully, if she’s at God’s table now, she’s not too star struck and she’s able to continue in that vein.

Nothing stops. I got the word that she had left at 9:45 in the evening. And, at 9:46, the world kept going. The sick were sick, the healthy were healthy. Lovers loved, strangers remained so at the opposite ends of park benches or train trips or even at the other side of a marriage, a romance …a sandwich. Mom stopped, but the world did not. That’s the way it is and that’s the way it should be. If the world stopped whenever one of us moved to the next part of the journey, no one would continue, would they? We’d all be stopped so often that life wouldn’t be any longer. Mom wouldn’t want it to stop, not for her. Hell, she hated having her picture taken which is odd because, I just looked at a bunch of pictures of her and she was beautiful. She was silly. She was serious. She was mom. She was wife. She was grandmother. She was all those things and she did all those things very well. She wouldn’t want a fuss. A cup of tea, a good book, warm feet, a call now and then. That was what mom liked. And I am sure it still is what she likes so, if she’s at God’s table, I hope he’s taking note and supplying that stuff for her. If he knows what’s good for him, he will.

My memory cloud is full of the oddest things when I think of mom. She had a blue fuzzy robe, like the hide of the cookie monster, which she carved up and made into a cape for me when I was Julius Caesar in grade school. I see tuna fish sandwiches on hoagie rolls and a crystal bowl full of potato chips, under the Christmas tree. A picnic, under a tree indoors and mom was there. I hear her singing. Just fucking singing all the time, in the kitchen, doing laundry, moving from here to there and back again, she would just sing. I hear her throw out words in Portuguese when we complained about dinner, half joking, half serious. I hear here say “love you” on the phone. Simple and true, oh my goodness how true can a “love you” be? Not much more true than that. A mother’s love. No matter the years, the damage, the hurt, that ‘love you’ was always true.

Nothing will ever be the same again. The wounds will have to be healed on their own without her voice saying it will be okay. The happinesses will have to be shared with others, not her and that will be hard. The phone calls are done. The looking forward to her broccoli casserole at the holidays when I could be there, is done. I mean, I am sure I could make it myself but, she did it best so, that will remain where it is. Nothing will be the same and yet, everything will be the same. It will all be here when I get back.

My mom used to … but now she doesn’t any more and that’s the way it is. But the things she used to, man that list, that’s one hell of a list. I mean apart from the casseroles and the singing, she sewed and baked and laughed and raised kids and loved her granddaughter and created a home for three guys and that’s just the stuff you can see. That’s just the stuff you can point at, call accomplishments. There is so much more. So much that I will remember from time to time. When I am caught off guard. When I am waiting for that bus. When I am sitting alone doing nothing. When I am in the wings getting ready to go on. I will think of something that mom used to do or say. For while, as I am now, I will cry. That will soon give way to laughing at her memory. Maybe a little more crying. But, I will not forget her. Even though the days go on and the world keeps doing it’s worldly thing, I will stop, now and then and remember. How can I not, she gave me so much to remember.

Hummels, Currier and Ives prints, books, canisters for flour and sugar, lists by the phone, cards on valentine’s day. The way she’d look at you from under her eyebrows when she was playing angry. Lay it all end to end and it stretches beyond the stars, beyond belief and back again. She won’t be back again, will she? No. No, she won’t. That’s okay, she deserve peace, rest, to see what the next part of the journey is because she did this part so well. She is survived by the children she created, the love she forged and the life she shared. How lucky am I to have been part of that? Pretty damn lucky.

So, it will all be here when I get back. It will all continue when I return. I wouldn’t be returning if it wasn’t for her. I simply wouldn’t be here. I am thankful that she was and that she did and that I can. I am thankful for singing and Portuguese and picnics and casseroles and capes of blue. I am thankful that she loved me. Without that, what would I do?

Flights of angels, mom, flights of angels.