Tuesday, July 28, 2020

To My Mother on Her 78th Birthday: Observing My Grief

Grief is a process, not an event.

This is a hard day, as yes, if Mom had lived she would have turned 78. I find that a very young age, which perhaps is strange but it is probably because she was so full of life, so joyful, that even now, two months plus since her sudden death, it still feels so strange not to have her here.

I think I know how the day would have gone. We would have gotten a small cake and probably had a quiet celebration, especially given the circumstances. I figure she would have selected something like Olive Garden or Red Lobster, she liked Red Lobster. Applebee's perhaps, or Chili's...she really liked Chili's. For her, those were upmarket places. She definitely had firmly middle-class, WASP tastes, but that's what she liked.

Then again, perhaps she would have surprised me and selected Kentucky Fried Chicken, which was her favorite. We'd have brought it home, and I would have popped in a DVD of something she liked. "A funny movie", she would have asked for, or if she was feeling particularly adventurous an Indiana Jones film. "INDY!" she would squeal with girlish delight. It would be a nice end to a day where she would have received phone calls from her friends, her church sisters and my aunt, her last living sister.

I think this personal reflection would have annoyed her, as she was not one to look back on for the most part. However, perhaps I can get away, with her indulgence, with sharing a few things.

She loved the United States. "I'm the REAL American," she would tell me, "not like you and your father. You two were just BORN here!". She would have been highly troubled by the chaos engulfing the country, horrified at the George Floyd murder but puzzled as to why so many feel the United States is such an awful place. I found an old English workbook she had. In the essay, "Who Am I?" she concluded with "I am a very lucky person because I live in this beautiful country and I am proud to be a citizen here".

That sentiment is not shared by thousands if not millions of Americans. I offer no opinion, just Mom's worldview and how it contrasts with many who "were just born here" and how they have a raging hostility towards a nation my Mom worked hard to become a citizen of. Often, but not always, naturalized citizens see their adopted homeland far differently than native-born citizens.

She was madly in love with Ricky Nelson. I never got the courage to ask her if she named me for him. Perhaps subconsciously she did. She was also passionate about Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif, with Doctor Zhivago being among her very favorite films. She also loved Funny Girl, again because of Omar Sharif, and to her dying day called Barbra Streisand "The Funny Girl". She rarely could remember names of stars.

Mom did, however, remember Sandra Bullock, whom she was a big fan of. She didn't care for Gravity though, and gave what I think is the best review ever given: "Two hours of Sandra Bullock crashing into things! And WHY couldn't she look glamorous? Put on some makeup? Done her hair? SHE'S SANDRA BULLOCK! SHE CAN'T LOOK UGLY!"

My memories of my mother are not as hurtful now as they were on May 6, 2020. Has it really been a little over two months? It's a mixture of joy and sorrow when I remember the last day, the last hours: her reading Scripture while listening to Escape on Sirius XM, dressed in a beautiful blue blouse with frills, her hair all perfectly coiffed. She was smiling when I saw her last, even with the mask I could tell she was smiling.

I am both glad and miserable that God called her on that day. She wanted a quick death, and the Lord granted this to her, a good and faithful servant. However, it left me bereft of her wisdom, her care, her company. It is an awful burden in a year where I have received enough blows.

You never get over the loss of your parent. You go on, you maybe get through it but never over it. One of the last things Mom said was, almost out of the blue, "I still miss my Mother". It's been close to thirty years since my Grandmother died, and yet Mom still missed her. How can I not feel it after just two months, right after the City of El Paso furloughed me and works hard to keep me unemployed?

Pandemics. A virtual revolution. Loss of job. Death of your parent.

The Book of Job has been an outlet for my grief, for I know Job. He speaks for me: a man who is blameless. Not sinless, but blameless, for that's the difference his friends did not understand. God does not cause troubles, but He allows them. We, who did nothing to cause our miseries, now work to not just sort out the chaos but understand that difficult question of why a Loving God allows such awful things.

She loved deeply, whether that was a flaw or virtue I leave to the reader. She was much more generous than I am in terms of time and money. She was a woman of much deeper faith.

I am devastated by so much, all piling on me. Job is my friend.

I will miss Socorro Aragon terribly. There hasn't been a day since May 6, 2020 when she does not enter my mind. I know that I will laugh again, that grief is not forever. It is, however, much harder to handle grief alone, especially with relatives who while loving and helpful are so terrified of the COVID-19 that they insist on wearing double masks or flat-out refuse to set foot in anyone's home. I have to carry this grief alone under awful, awful circumstances and against an openly hostile employer who seems to despise my very existence.

She was a wonderful lady, one who should be remembered. I hope and pray to be allowed to let her legacy live on.

To My Mother, Socorro Aragon, on her 78th Birthday. I Love You, my Dearest Mother, and will until we are reunited. Give a big hug and kiss to my Grandmother, all my aunts and uncles, and all the cousins.

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