There is sunshine and light and laughter in every one of my days. Even my dark days. On the days when life has me down, things are not going my way, when I just need to cry. There are always my kids (and sometimes other peoples kids) and they always manage to put a smile on my face, even when my face does not want to smile.
Sunday was a very dark day. You know when you answer the phone, and the other person says “hello” and you hear it? In just that one word, you hear it. I had that phone call on Sunday. My mother called me, and I was expecting her call, even the news, and I heard the heartbreak in her voice with just that one word. Hello.
I never said Hello back. I only asked what was wrong, knowing what was wrong, and she told me her sister had died. I have been expecting this call. My Tante Lia has valiantly fought breast cancer for 20 years and her body is done. She is in hospice, and from what I hear making the most of her last days, so I was expecting this call. It is only after several minutes of crying that I realized it was not Lia, it was her sister Marianna.
Tante Marianne, the strong one, the rock, ever practical, rarely serious, funny, loving and suddenly, inexplicably gone. I’m crying now. I cried Sunday. I didn’t expect it, it blew me away. I actually dropped to my knees and just cried hard and loud with my mom on the phone, thousands of miles away.
Her heart just stopped, the autopsy was yesterday but I don’t know the answer why. My mom is on a plane, flying from North Carolina to Amsterdam even now. My sister is flying up later this afternoon from France, with my beautiful niece & nephew. I will drive up tomorrow with just Dane. I can’t take all my kids out of school again.
I am dreading Friday. Then it will be real. It will be a final goodbye to a woman who gave me so much joy, so much laughter, when I was young and later too, when I truly got her dry sense of humor, in a completely different way. At the same time I am looking forward to seeing my mom, my sister, my Oma, my family. I just so wish Marianne would be there too. Really, really there.
Sunday my mom and I didn’t talk much, we just cried. Over the last couple of days I called her frequently just to check in, to see how see she is, to plan our part for Friday, to cement travel plans. In the middle of one of our more serious talks, Dane screamed for help. The ‘Help’ that is like that ‘Hello’. The Help where I know I needed to move.
I found Dane at the dining room table, panic on his face, both index fingers firmly lodged in a secret, stolen-from-Cole, soda can. Both. Index. Fingers. Why?!?!?! I briefly panicked too, half-yelled in my mom’s ear (she was still on the phone, it’s a bummer it wasn’t Skype) and she just… laughed. For the first time in two days, she laughed. Because this is what kids do: they remind us of life, and happiness and joy.
Dane’s fingers were rescued with a little soap, patience, and minor cuts. My mom and I had our hearts lightened just a little, and I knew what photo I wanted to share today. This photo is taken around 1950, it is my mom and most of her siblings (Lia, the youngest, wasn’t born yet). I can look at their faces and see the trouble & mischief they are going to get into that day. I know so many of the stories from my mom, my aunts & uncles, and my Oma. This is how I remember them, even though I only know them as adults, and it makes me smile.
Ton, Hans, Kitty, Annelies (my mother), Marianne & Marjo