I’ve said goodbye to a lot of things and people on this blog—my favorite bar, the best job I’ve ever had, my best friend—but there is one in particular that I’ve been avoiding, because it will be REALLY hard to write. However, I think the time has finally come to do it.
Yesterday, my mom and my brother drive me down to the airport and dropped me off. I know that my brother won’t hesitate to come visit me and that when he does things will be pretty much the same as they were when we would hang out in Flagstaff.
But, I don’t really know how things will go with my mom. I will miss her like crazy, for innumerable difficult to define reasons. I want to try to explain the best of them here.
Little know fact about my mom and me: I have her sense of humor.
You’d think that I got my dad’s sense of humor, because of the two of them you would immediately peg him for the funny one. He is a smart ass, and he likes to tell loud stories and laugh at things that he finds ridiculous, repeating humorous one-liners after they’re delivered in movies, and I did pick some of that up as well. But, my primary way of interpreting and communicating things that are funny is via dry, flat sarcasm. In fact, if I can deliver it in such a way that the tone of my voice is completely unchanged and the person I’m talking to isn’t sure if I’m joking until I give them a little, you-aren’t-sure-if-I’m-messing-with-you-are-you? smile, I’m at the peak of my comedic ability. And one day, maybe a month ago, I heard my mom do the EXACT same thing. I can’t remember the conversation or even the joke now, but as soon as I heard it, it hit me—she is the funny one.
My mom can give a hard time with the best of them (I remember a big, manly man we knew who stayed in her house for a little while and who never heard the end of it after he ran away from a tiny little spider in the closet!), and if you didn’t know her, you would have no idea she’s even capable of it. In fact, I think the primary traits one would attribute to my mother are things like: generous, sympathetic, caring, friendly, welcoming, etc., and she is all of those things. She is the type of person who always has someone extra at Thanksgiving dinner (sometimes someone she can’t really stand) because she hates for them to have nowhere to go. She radiates this giving quality so thoroughly, that sometimes people don’t hesitate to ask her for things that are really above and beyond the call of duty of a casual friend or acquaintance. Anyone who has come in contact with her would likely support my thesis that she is an unfailingly helpful and generous person.
But only the people who really know her recognize the funny. She enjoys life and people and chooses to laugh at absurd moments, obstacles, or difficult people more often than she is frustrated by them. When you call her on a mistake, she has this fantastic, sheepish look that goes with a slightly embarrassed laugh, and is typically followed by a statement that starts with, “well…” and ends with the reason whatever she said or did made sense at the time, however, ridiculous or implausible it sounds when she says it aloud.
I look like my mom. My gestures are like hers. I inherited her tendency to help other people so much that it gets to be a detriment to herself. Even my first substantial failed relationship looked frighteningly like her marriage to my dad. And, I’m thrilled that we can laugh together at the same things in the same way.
I will miss a lot of things about my mom while I’m away from her. I’m grateful to her for all the help she has given me—buying me things, helping me move, supporting my work, and so on, and I’ll have to get used to not having that kind of help within easy reach. But what I’ll really be homesick for is not what she does for me, but what she just does, naturally without even thinking about it, and what she passed on to me, probably without even realizing it: a way of looking at the world with a combination of skepticism and levity. Fortunately, I carry that piece of her with me. Anywhere the world might take me, I am her daughter, and I carry her with me.