I’m not sure what I remember when I look back. It seems as though lifetimes have gone between then and now, you and me, and all the years we’ve seen together or apart have changed us with age and distance.
You are somewhere far now. You’re somewhere in a place I cannot see or understand. And all I have are these notes I send to reach you—hoping that somehow, you know what I’ve been trying to say and the need to explain myself will subside to the understanding that in some way, you’ve seen all the things I needed you to see.
I’m not sure what I remember first when I look back. Maybe it’s the ride we took to the doctor that time. My fever was so high. I remember lying in the backseat of our four-door, two-tone, Chevy Caprice. We were on the way to see that doctor in Forest Hills. I think his name was Dr. Blatt, am I right? And if I remember correctly, he had a wooden rocking horse in his waiting room and a Frog and Toad children’s book on a round table in the center of the room. There was a toy on that table as well. It was one of those old toys for little kids, or toddlers, with a wooden base and a squiggly red metal line with bead-like pieces of yellow wood that a kid could slide up the metal line and place the pieces from one side of the puzzle to another.
I never liked this place. I never liked going to the doctor or waiting in his waiting room. I knew it meant one thing. Inevitably, I knew I would get a shot. And I would run when the needle came out. Remember? I would try to run and hide—except sometimes, I was too sick to run or hide. And sometimes, I had no choice but to take the shot.
If I think about it, this is where my fear for needles came to be. Also, this is one of the first times I saw how much you loved me. Perhaps you never knew this.
I remember how scared you were on the way to the doctor. I remember how angry you were and frustrated after being pulled over for speeding. And it’s not that you were driving too fast or recklessly; it was more that you were a mom with her sick kid in the backseat of the car. Unfortunately, the policeman didn’t see it this way and he still have you a ticket.
I was about eight at the time. Isn’t that right? And I spent a little more than two weeks in the hospital. I had needles stuck in my arm with a line that led up to a bag of liquid, which hung from a steel stand on wheels. Every hour, a nurse came in to check the I.V. and every time I fell asleep—a nurse came in to take my vitals.
I remember this. I remember it like it was an old scary movie I could never shake from my memory. I also remember you were right there with me. You never left. You never went home. You were there with me the entire time.
When I asked about this, you told me, “Because that’s what mothers do.”
And it must be so. No one ever does anything like Mom does. No one can either. Still, to this day I have not had cinnamon toast like the cinnamon toast you used to make for me on cold, winter mornings.
I remember the small green plates too. If I’m not mistaken, these were the same plates we used when we lived in that duplex apartment in Forest Hills. You would toast the toast and then spread butter out with just the right amount of sugar and cinnamon. No one made toast like you did. I’d sit at the table and eat everything except for the crust.
I see these memories sometimes. I see them like pictures in the brain—and I hold them like I would an old photo album, just to keep the memories safe.
When you’re a kid, no one ever tells you that life and age are not fair things. Even if we did hear this, when you’re a kid, you think you know it all.
No one explains that age is uncontrollable. Life is often uncontrollable too. Life doesn’t stop, —no matter how we beg or plead—life keeps moving without asking us what we think or feel. I tell you it wasn’t easy growing up. It wasn’t easy to be a kid. there were so many things that were beyond my control.
I suppose it’s not easy being a mom either and probably for the same reasons.
There’s too many things beyond your control
I never knew when or if you were proud of me. What I mean is, I always knew you were on my side—but I never knew why. Most likely, this is a symptom of poor self image.
There was one night though. We were at Disney.
I do . . .
I remember you were looking up at the sky while the fireworks burst over The Magic Kingdom. And then there was the next night at Epcot—the same thing happened. The sky burst into color with glaring rockets and mortars exploding in showers of sparks above the center of the theme park. The music played and it was nothing short of incredible. It was beautiful, but sad as well, and I was never quite sure why.
I saw you look up at the sky with a smile that reminded you of why we live. Maybe I was too young to see the same thing as you. Maybe i was afraid to feel that vulnerable or maybe my view of the sky was jaded by a young and angry opinion. Maybe I was lost in the burden of self—or maybe I was simply too blind to see how beautiful life can be because I was too afraid to see anything passed my own closed off world.
I remember what you said too. You told me, “Oh son, if I would die tomorrow, I would still feel like I saw the whole world.” This is how beautiful that night was to you.
I always wished I could make you feel as proud or pleased as that night did. I always wished I could have done or created something. And I wish I could have shown it to you. I wish you could have seen what I created and I could have heard you tell me, “I’m proud of you son.”
These are the four words that I think I miss most.
“I’m proud of you son.”
Same as it was when you took care of me when I was sick; and same as it was when you made cinnamon toast for me—no one can say “I’m proud of you son,” and make me feel like you did, Mom.
There is so much happening right now. There are so many things I wish you could see. Deep in my heart, I know you would be proud of me. You always were proud of me—even when I didn’t deserve it. I just wish that you were here to tell me it.
Happy Birthday, Mom
Wherever you are