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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Valentine

Say What?!?

Necessity dispenseth with decorum.

-Thomas Carlyle

No matter how old you are when your parents pass away, you feel like an orphan. My mother passed away a few months before my oldest son graduated from high school. All four of my grandparents were gone before I was 4 months old. I was really looking forward to having my mom there. My father passed away when my middle son was 8 years old.

It is funny the things that remind me of my mom. I have some my mom things, a few of her clothes, even though we weren’t the same size. I keep saying I am going to make a quilt one of these days and wrap it around me…and make believe I am getting a hug from her. Even though it has been 12 years, I still intend to make that quilt. And then there is a list that I have had on the side of my refrigerator for 12 years. It is a list of the attendees for my oldest son’s high school graduation. We received limited tickets so the seats are coveted. We’d planned on Nano being there so of course her name is on the list.

I just need to throw this paper away. It doesn’t have mom’s picture. It is old and just stuck to the side of my refrigerator along with magnets from other cities and a few sports magnets from when the fellas were little. For the life of me, I just can’t put it in the trash. Isn’t it funny what you connect to? My mom never held the paper, her handwriting is nowhere on it, but somehow I connect her to it. When you have someone that you love dearly die as suddenly as she did, you almost don’t have time to adjust to the fact that they are no longer there. You go through a myriad of questions wondering was there anything we should have done differently that cold rainy night?

My mom and I had a great relationship. I was always busy shuttling the fellas to their designated activities after school and especially on the weekends. If I ever got a night/evening off, I would ride by and we would sit and talk. These evenings were special because she and I both knew how rare they were. She enjoyed basketball and would request the special basketball package that gave her access to the full NBA schedule. Would it be too much to ask to have one of my parents at my son’s graduation? He is graduating in the top 5% of his class. In the moment the reason just doesn’t make sense, but if you hold one for a while, it will become all too clear.

I realized that my mom hadn’t interacted with my husband much since our divorce. If you knew my mother, you would know that she was a no holds bar type of lady. She would speak her mind, but as she got older, in her mind, she’d earned the right to say what she pleased. Even if you didn’t ask her, you may get her two cents worth. She and I may not have agreed on everything, but she was passionately protective of her children. With my husband’s exodus, leaving her daughter with three babies to care for on her own, there could have very well been some fireworks. It was already dicing with my dear friend and sister being here, but we know how to act with class and decorum – we have good home training. My mother was past that point – she wanted retribution.

I decided to have a family breakfast and of course invite the in-laws on graduation day. This way we have the pictures of the family working together, but we have to get to the graduation so it’s not an all-day type of thing. That worked out well. We also had a small, just family gathering that evening. (I’m not a big advocate for a huge high school graduation party. I tell my children “you are supposed to graduate from high school. No one is impressed with that achievement. I am proud of you, but you have to keep going.”) That night we went around the room, giving my oldest son, the graduate, sage advice. My wife-in-law, who came with her husband takes her turn and says, “I have known you since you were 4 years old…”. I can’t tell you what else she said because the numbers started turning in my head. Four years old? I was still married (on paper) when this child was four years old.

We kept “enjoying” the evening, cleaned up and retired for the night. My girlfriend was sleeping on an extra bed in my room. Once everyone was in bed and the lights were turned off I called my girlfriend’s name in the voice that says “did you hear what that woman said, in my house?” We cracked up laughing. It all became clear to me. There is no way things would have ended peacefully with my mom in the room. She would have cleared the room and left the scraps for the coyotes. I get a good laugh about it, even now. So I take comfort in knowing that the good Lord was looking out for my family.

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