Living Without You

“I can’t live, if living is without you.”.

The lyrics from the Air Supply Song of the late 1980s sprung to mind last night, as Mom came to me after their return from a Memorial Day Picnic celebration with friends and shared with me her most recent news.

 
Several months ago now, a friend from her Scandinavian social group had died of an aggressive cancer. She left behind her dear husband. Last night, Mom shares with me that this husband had expressed grief recently, stating he didn’t know how he would be able to live without her. It’s an expression, I am sure, often heard in these circles- as friends pass. This group is primarily senior in age, with people mostly in their 70s and 80s.

 
“You did hear about Bjarte didn’t you?” She asks, seemingly certain I should already know the news.

 
“No, Mom- what about Bjarte?”.

 
“He shot himself.”

 

“Mom – oh my, when did it happen? He shot himself?”

 

Mom nods “yes, they found him. The trauma of it put his daughter in law in the hospital. It happens you know, often with men. They can’t handle life when their wives did everything for them.”

 
I think of Mom and how she does every single thing for Dad. He would be lost without her. I would be there of course, if that happened. But it is true in that generation, the women cook, clean, lay out the clothes. It’s fairly common that these men just sit back on retirement and the wife does everything. She takes care of their bills. She now does the driving. She takes care of his pills.

 
She looks at me. “We must make time to go through everything. We just don’t know from day to day how much time we have. I need you to have a full understanding of all of his pills – it’s so important that you know the proper dosage of his blood pressure pills”. She looks away, and then at me again “and mine too, you need to know my list of pills.” I nod. “Yes, Mom- it’s very important, we must make the time”.

 
She continues “you need to know where everything is. Our papers. Everything”. I nod again and look her in the eye and hold her hand “of course, everything” I say.

 
It’s such a tender part of life, those years when friends- one after the other, pass away. Some suddenly, others after years of suffering.

 
“How many were at the party?” I interrupt the bleakness of the moment.

 
“About fifteen or so” she offers.

 
“How did they like your store bought lemon cake?” I ask with a smile.

 
“I don’t know, no one said, but I loved it. It was so delicious. Just like a homemade Blottkake from Norway” she smiled at me. “No one noticed, there were a lot of store bought items”.

I was glad she had opted to buy the cake. She had been stressed about it the day before and had procrastinated and had a headache that morning. It was good that she had given herself permission to buy instead of bake. In this case, anyway.

“The table was full of things and there were several deli containers – people do that you know?” She reflects “they just go to the deli and buy a pasta salad and their done”. “It’s ok to do that from time to time, Mom. No one will fault you for a barbecue or picnic” I offer.

“Hey you” she coos to my sweet Sofie lying next to me on a pillow. “Are you still lounging around?” She reaches for Sofie and Sofie just gazes back at he, her typical luxuriant self. I tap Sofie’s bottom gently to urge her to move closer to Mom. “Come now Sofie, say hi” I tease gently and she responds by moving right up to Mom and allowing herself within range of her caresses. “She is so beautiful” Mom says. She moves her hand up and down her silky fur. She smiles and gets up from the bed. “Well, I better head up” she says. “Goodnight, Mom”. “Goodnight, Katherine- love you.” “I love you too, Mom”.

She retreats and I linger on thoughts of her tonight. Hearing the news about Bjarte. The shock of it all. All of the people she has had to say goodbye to in the past year. Her likely reflection on mortality and the reality of it all. She is nearly eighty years old now. They are both so young in spirit, most of the time. But I see the slower pace. And, her difficulty in climbing the stairs, her right knee troubling her. Her hearing and her memory at times. Signs of age. And, Dad, nearing ninety.

While I will sit with her to go over everything, we will not focus on that inevitable moment in time when I will have to say goodbye to them. Instead, live each moment of each day as a celebration of the day we have today. We must cherish each day. And, I will plan fun outings to make the mundane more exciting. They have stopped traveling, so we must plan outings to celebrate our home city and state. Make life special. Each day.

And I must not focus on those words from Air Supply. I must find joy in moments alone so that I can must the courage to live without them, when the time comes.

Missing Violet

Where is Violet?
The final story in the best of episode of The Lapse brings the voice of a young woman whose quest it is to find her mother. Her last memories of her mother are the kisses that she received on her cheeks as Violet dropped her off at neighbors. Looking back it was the earnestness of her kisses and hugs, and in particular, those that Violet bestowed upon her baby sister, that prompts her to reflect that Violet knew in those moments that this was the last time she would see her daughters.
Later we learn that someone witnessed a person in a black leather jacket plunge over Niagara Falls and the event is deemed a suicide.   Violet wore a black leather jacket, the two are connected including her vehicle close to the falls.  The dots are connected.
The daughters move on with their lives.
Twenty two years later, Felisha Martin is still looking for her mother Violet. She has learned from various sources, that this disappearance was likely not a suicide. That it was instead a planned escape into a new reality. Her voice conveys a forgiveness and concern for her; an overwhelmed young mother with two children by age 23. What Felisha later learns is that her mother may have been mixed up in some very bad stuff, including prostitution and drug dealing. She likely wanted to push the restart button. Reboot. Start over.

I listen to this young woman who has such a brave and yet remarkably light voice. She clearly learned to be a grown up very early on. Now, she seeks answers, mostly because she just wants to know. She talks of confronting her mother’s family a while back because they protected her and her sister from her mother’s truths. Felisha tells them they don’t need to protect her, that she wants to know the truth so she can move on.

At one point, someone in her circle saw Violet in a casino and came face to face with her. The woman claimed a different name and rushed out, but this person says she knows it was her. There are certain mannerisms that suggest that there was a 99.95 % chance that the woman in the casino was Violet. Someone else comes forward having known Violet as a child. This woman who had encountered Violet suggests that she was a truly lovely person and that she was quite fond of her.

Another circumstance reveals yet another encounter episode with Violet. This time another young woman remembers Violet walking her to a party. At the time, this young woman was a little girl and she carried great affection for Violet. This little girl presented Violet with a pair inexpensive seashell earrings and she noticed that Violet was already wearing these beautiful gold earrings, likely quite a bit more expensive than the seashells. Violet immediately took off the gold earrings and replaced them with the seashell earrings. She then kneeled down and hugged the little girl and told her how she loved them. She wore them the whole evening. There was tenderness in those actions.

 

I wonder about Violet, her love for her daughters, her knowledge of being stuck in a no-win lifestyle full of violence and perversion. Her worry at exposing her daughters and keeping her daughters in a bad situation that was perhaps only continuing to get worse. Did she leave to save her daughters? Did she leave to save herself? Was she coerced?   Did she continue on the path of destruction or did she clean up her life?   Is she alive?   Felisha wants answers to these questions and so much more. She wants to know she is safe, that she is ok. She perhaps wants to know her better. She wants to understand what happened and put into perspective how she is to live herself.

 

When life ends up a bucket of mistakes, how often do people hit the reset button? And in that reset, are the mistakes completely wiped away? Or do they linger on and filter into the new life? Did resetting help Violet? Or, did she repeat the disaster in another reality with other players and other messes?

 

Habits and tendencies: do these not follow us around no matter where we end up? You can divorce that person for being insensitive or abusive. Will you simply repeat the disaster with someone else? Our human makeup, can it be changed? Can we get out of ourselves and improve so that the cycle does not repeat itself? And if so, how do we do that?

 

I wonder if Violet still doesn’t want to be found. If she is afraid of coming face to face with her past mistakes, that is- her own mistakes of not treasuring her gifts in her daughters, of the hope and joy and promise they presented her. Of not seeing at such a young age what a incredible miracle they were. There is a website where Felisha is gathering data on her mother… MissingViolet(dot)com.