Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Stranger

Something happens to you when you lose a parent. I'm not anywhere near an expert, so I can't speak as to what everyone feels, or even what most people feel, but I can't talk about how it has made me feel.

I was 18 when my mother died. I had just returned back to college after Christmas break. We had had a falling out, but had made up by phone a few days before. She was planning to visit me soon. I remember her being upset about me wanting to go out for New Year's Eve to a club with my friends. She told me that it may be her last and I accused her of being overly dramatic. 

I went. 

She died on January 12, 1995. I wasn't there. I was notified in the middle of the night and driven home shortly thereafter. I have not been the same since then, obviously.

I read a book recently, about how the author dealt with the death of her parents. I found myself feeling so much empathy. I thought about how hard that must have been, and still be, for her, even though our situations were so very different.

The reason I even bring it up today is because I came across a book yesterday. The Stranger by Albert Camus. The memories came flooding back. I remember having to read this before the start of my senior year in high school. I remember sitting at our glass dining room table at the large desktop computer, typing out the report that was due very soon. I remember tapping into the most creative part of myself as I developed a diary for the main character, based on his actions in the book. I remember being very proud of what I did and I remember being extremely excited that my teacher recognized it, too. It's sparked something in me, getting that "A". I felt like I was finally good at something. It made me want to become an English professor.

The thing about losing my mother is that I have in my possession so many things, both sentimental and random. There is no family home to return to. We lived in an apartment in 1995 and before I returned to school, everything had to be removed. My address became my mailbox number. Many things were thrown away, somethings were stolen, the rest went to storage.

I have all of the old family pictures. I have pieces of furniture. I have books from high school. I have my mother's notes from college and her greeting card collection. I have school pictures of people I haven't seen in almost 30 years. I even have that report on The Stranger in a box somewhere, I'm sure of it. 

We move these things from place to place every two to three years. 

I never became an English professor, as is probably obvious by my grammar and sentence structure. 

My mother convinced me to pursue engineering.

I wonder if she would be proud of who I am today. I no longer consider myself an engineer (I've long since forgotten so much of what I learned), but it was a great experience. I saw the world like she wanted me to. I finished what I started.

I know that mother-daughter relationships aren't always perfect. I don't tell myself that if she were here everything would be great. But I do miss the opportunity to call her, to have a lap in which to rest my head when the days get so, so hard and I just need to cry and have my head stroked. I want more than anything for my children to have a grandmother in their lives. I think that my mother would have been a grandmother much like her mother was to me and that would be a wonderful thing to have. 

It's amazing what finding an old paperback in a  box can bring to mind. 

No wonder I can't declutter. All! These! Emotions! 


Becca said...

Beautiful and poignant post, C. I've always placed great value on things from the past, those subtle sentimental reminders that I always want to keep so I won't forget anything. My husband thinks I'm a pack rat, but I think I just love where we all come from and how it's shaped where we are.

Me ;-) said...

Absolutely beautiful.

Beth said...
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Molly said...


lots and lots of <3

Alison Piepmeier said...

Isn't it amazing how material objects, stuff you weren't expecting, can trigger a whole series of memories? I think material objects often do it more than anything else. The smells, the kinesthetic experience of holding it in your hands.

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