[I wrote this late Wednesday, into the early hours of Thursday but have waited to get the nod from the Not Boyfriend to post it. Back in Chicago together, he gave it to me and so I share this bit of the last week now with you.]
I haven't written much lately, consumed by the daily-ness of my life and considering some very big questions. But this post called to me. I was stretched out in bed last night when the title fluttered into my sleepy thoughts so that I had to type it out before I could rest. This evening, I pushed aside that dread that comes with tapping out the first words in a long while, intent on writing a little something about the Not Boyfriend's mother who made clear she was in her final weeks after a long and tiring dance with cancer.
My fingers rested on the keys. I was thinking about a conversation with the Not Boyfriend tonight. His mother was much weaker, a little afraid of taking more medicine, in pain. He'd had to carry her.
I procrastinated on the post, reading emails and sorting through Halloween photos. The clock neared midnight in my time zone but the pull to put words to what was stirring across the country was still there.
I opened a blank screen. And the phone rang.
"I'm sorry to wake you," the Not Boyfriend said. He hadn't woken me at all. I was centering on which phrase would begin all I wanted to say.
Before those words could be written, my love's mother let go.
What I wanted to say while her heart was still beating was thank you. I shared this sentiment in a card last week, offering my gratitude for the gift that is her son, for the light he is in this life. She returned with a sweet email. There was going to be more.
It was apparent months ago that her time left was not long. While she and the Not Boyfriend exchanged paperwork and details of dying she managed with care and meticulousness -- another gift -- I thought of an interview with Sting I read a year or so ago, in which he said he was at peace with being in the winter of his life.
The idea of making your way through the seasons is lovely but all I could envision was the older ladies in boots with canes and grocery carts trudging through snow and slush in the miserable cold of the city, and how treacherous, exhausting and cruel that seems. The winter was not what I wished for the Not Boyfriend's mother, at least not like that picture.
As the reality of her remaining time shortened from months to weeks, I thought of her like autumn. I pictured the slow fall of leaves -- vibrant reds like hair and rich purples like the color she wore the first two times we met. I wished her glorious and unexpected sunshine and a calm breeze, the subtle reminder that life is changing.
It was a way of praying, this picture in my mind. Because sending those thoughts out to the universe, hoping they'd gather in the laps of my love and his mother, was what I could do.
I only met her a few times. To be honest, she wasn't that thrilled with the idea of me in the beginning. Having a child, being far away, not being at all the woman she dreamed up for her only son -- it wasn't the scene she'd imagined at all. The first meeting was tough. But the second was warmer. I didn't agree with her concerns about me or why we were together, but I didn't blame her. A protective mother of a son -- that part I could get. That could be our bridge, not just loving her son, but in getting what it is to bring a boy into the world.
The third meeting followed some back-and-forth emails and was in celebration of the Not Boyfriend's graduation from officer's training for the National Guard. She was fragile but beaming. We sat next to each other in the last row of the theater and she grabbed my hand and held tight for a long time.
She was very proud and it poured out of her in the moment I am so glad I got in the photo above. She kissed him that day, saying her goodbyes early and exiting slowly as her friend came to escort her home. Before she left, she hugged me, pulled back and whispered into my ear, "Take care of him."
I always want summer to last far longer than it can. I feel the sadness well up at the first hint of cold air and flowers fading. I hold on to every moment I can. And then there's a magnificent moon and I get giddy to hear the crunch of leaves under my boots. Suddenly, it is autumn. And I can let go of the season that has passed. I can really be in moment that is here.
I didn't know the Not Boyfriend's mother well, but I got to glimpse at those final months and weeks and hours before she was suddenly standing in the center of this season. I hope her spirit is light, her soul is at peace, her body at ease, and can feel the wind in her hair as we say goodbye.
I am thankful I knew her, if briefly, that we held hands in one moment and that she didn't have to face a winter. My heart is pounding hard for the man I adore and for all he carries.