I wish I could call to wish you Happy 70th Birthday.
I wish I could call so you could, like you did every year of my life, say you never feel old on your birthday, that you only feel old on mine.
Two days ago I was driving home from the trail in town where I walk my dog, and I realized you’ve been gone so long you don’t know my town or my home or my trail or my dog.
I miss you most at the most ridiculous times. Like when I open someone’s linen closet and they’ve folded their towels and arranged them in color order, like you. Like when MaryKay the dental assistant tilts me back in the hydraulic chair to clean my teeth. Like when I walk into a bathroom where someone has been holed up, smoking a cigarette. Like when I scratch through a line to tweak one of your favorite recipes. In ink!
You died before I cooked using cookbooks.
You died before your favorite soaps got cancelled, before reality TV. You died before I’d read Mary Karr and Dorothy Allison and Joan Didion and Cheryl Strayed. You died before I forgave your mother. You died before text messaging and social media and cell phone pictures. You died before I graduated, twice; before I used white medical tape to spell out the words “Thanks Mom!” on my graduation cap only to run to the university bathroom to urgently peel it off before I walked, because what 40 year old woman writes “Thanks Mom!” to her dead mother on her cap?
I wish we could go on a big long international trip to Paris or Rome or Munich. I wish we could just run to the Kroger for bread.
I’m typing this letter on my laptop where I can fix all of my mistakes. The last time I wrote you a letter was 3 days after you died and I had to write it by hand with a Drury Lodge pen and I was in such a hurry I didn’t have time to start over and fix that long stupid list of unrealistic promises.
13 years later, I still wish I could fix that letter.
I miss you most when I desperately need to call someone and there’s only one person I want to call so I don’t call anyone.
Next month I will turn 50 and you will not be here to call me up and say, “But I feel so old!”
Two days ago I was driving home from the trail. The trail is in our county park. My dog’s name is JoJo. I live 8 miles from town in a house with a porch. There are two chairs on my porch.
Happy 70th birthday, Mom.