Yesterday marked a significant date in my life. Well, maybe it’s more significant for my mother, but it’s an event that tugs at my heartstrings nonetheless.
Thirty-two years ago, on December 19, 1977, my father proposed to my mother.
Now, I wasn’t there, obviously, but from what I hear, it was a simple proposal. Nothing over-the-top or excessively extravagant. That just wasn’t my parents, so I suppose it should come as no surprise that the proposal would be simple – just like them.
A few days ago, my mother began telling me that her proposal anniversary was coming up. Now, maybe it was a little self-centered of me to assume this, but I told her matter-of-factly, “I’m sorry. I feel so sorry for you.”
And my mother, she just stood there and looked at me, a look of pure confusion crossing her face.
“Why would you feel sorry for me?” she asked.
“Because you’re without your husband,” I replied.
“We didn’t have an extravagant wedding, but those 25 years of memories we had together were the best times of my life,” she said.
And then it hit me: She didn’t see the dark clouds of despair. She saw the rainbow after the storm.
It seemed like we had been on the opposite ends of the emotional spectrum for months. And here was yet another example, our differing views over the same event: my father’s death.
In June, my sister and I took her to see the movie “Up,” which couldn’t have been more appropriate for another occasion – her anniversary. I honestly didn’t think I’d like the movie. I’m not a Pixar kind of girl, and the whole story of a man using balloons to fly his house to his late wife’s favorite spot seemed, well, sort of convoluted to me.
Suffice it to say that by the end of the film, my eyes had filled with tears – something else I don’t usually do. I’m talking full-on, eyes-watering, lower-lip quivering, trying-to-hold-it-together in public sort of tears.
My favorite line of the movie, ironically, turned out to be the one I was in desperate need of hearing – one, I think, my mother had been trying to teach me all along:
“I didn’t ask for any of this.”
Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But it just hit me how true it is. I didn’t ask for my father’s suicide. I didn’t ask for the pain left in his wake. I didn’t ask for any of it.
And, yet, here I am … with it. Maybe I’m not drowning in it, but it is with me. Every day. Everywhere I go, and everything I do. I may not want it, but I also don’t have to let it eat me alive, either.
And my mother? Well, she, accordingly, derived a different little lesson from the movie (and she didn’t end up blubbering like a little child, either).
Her take, one she explained to me a few weeks ago when we watched the movie again after I bought it for her: It’s hard to live and love and know when to let go, to cut those strings and let those balloons fly away. But eventually, you do it because you know you can’t carry them and let them weigh you down forever.
I’m not sure if I’m ready to let go of all those balloons yet. But maybe I’ll let one fly away for now and see how it feels.