My Mom died peacefully this past November 1, All Saints Day. She was 94, and suffered from dementia, so it was a combination of grief over losing her, and relief that her suffering had ended.
With her passing, I am officially an orphan. My Dad passed away in 2003 and my only sister in 2004. I am flying solo now.
This past year many of my friends have lost parents or siblings. It is bound to happen, as we are of “that age”. Family members pass, and with them go many of the family traditions that bound you all together.
The first Christmas without.
The first birthday, yours or theirs, without.
The first wedding anniversary without.
These times were times of family sharing, or they could be times of great stress. My Mom put so much importance on being together for Christmas that it was not enjoyable. The meal was tense, the pressure to be the perfect family was enormous. It was like she was trying to recreate that Norman Rockwell painting of the family at Thanksgiving. And yet, I do miss it. For all of her stress and perfectionism, the bottom line was she treasured our small family. She just had a weird way of showing it. To learn more about my Mom, check out my post “Betty and the Banana Cake”.
My Dad and I were very close. I used to show horses competitively, and he was my biggest supporter and champion. We would get up at the crack of dawn, hitch up the horse trailer and head out. I couldn’t eat anything until I was done competing, just my own nervous food ritual. When I was old enough, Dad and I began our post-show ritual. We would both sit down and crack open a Genesee Cream Ale. (Beer fans, do not judge me…). Whether I won or lost, this was how we ended a day of competing. It was one of my favorite times with him. To learn more about my Dad, check out my post “Old Ritual= New Ritual”.
My sister loved good meals. And she adored anything French. But she could not keep a stocked pantry or refrigerator to save her life. My son, who was about 9 at the time, and I went to visit my sister in Florida. I needed to make my son some lunch and opened her refrigerator. No bread. No fruit. No mayonnaise. But there was a half used jar of capers and a head of frisee. Check the cupboards. No peanut butter. No tuna. No cereal. No kid food, period. But there were canned snails and dried porcini mushrooms…
We had to go out to the local deli and buy my son a sandwich.
I can’t fault her. She shopped like a European. And I love snails…
When my Dad passed, I could share the grief with my sister and my Mom. When my sister passed, I had to support my Mom. No one wants to outlive their children. When my Mom passed, I had the support of my husband, son, his fiancée and my friends.
I’m not alone, and yet I am.
This year for me is the First Without-without ALL Of Them. And it feels sad.
I have the ashes of all three of them. And I have been trying to decide what to do. We aren’t funeral people, there was not a service for any of them. But what I am thinking of doing is having a dinner party for my friends and family who knew them. And I will cook my Mom’s pot roast (it was always fabulous), make escargot in honor of my sister, and drink a Genny in honor of my Dad. I’m going to take all of those elements of our meal traditions and share it in remembrance of them.
I’m taking my First Without and having it WITH those who knew and loved them. And I won’t feel alone.