I knew this day would come, but I half-denied it. My mom, Tudy (not Trudy) Mattson, always wanted to be young and never accepted the idea of getting old. On the fated day of January 23, a friend remarked to Tudy that she didn’t look well, and suggested she visit the nurse. Mom hopped in her Toyota instead and went for a drive around town.
The next morning she failed to ring the check-in bell required of all residents at the retirement center in Naples, FL, where she lived. They found her in bed, dead at 88 years and nine days old. She’d had no major health concerns. Cause of death was “natural causes,” that is — old age.
As my dad (d. 1991) and various rows of aunts and uncles passed away over the years, I felt myself gradually torn from the fortress of security I’d known, but had taken for granted, in boyhood. With each loss — Uncle Wally, Aunt Donna, etc. — I was forced onto a peninsula of sorts, jutting away from the ancestral mainland. The peninsula became an island when we lost Mom.
Now the island is the mainland for my kids and grandkids. And it’s a place that serves clear notice: my generation is on deck. We’re up next. I’m up next. Just as I begin to enter old age, I’m cut off from the biology of my parents. “Who I came from” is permanently absent, creating a vacant space in my heart as distressing as the immediate grief of losing Tudy.
Sharon and I are sad these days but doing OK. I’m reflecting on how Mom loved ballroom dancing, dolphin-watching at the Naples Pier, joking around with friends and strangers . . . mostly she loved her family.
Mom: I never thought this day would come, even though I knew it would come. That’s the contradiction. With you being gone, I feel displaced from my origins. I can drive back to the town of my boyhood and see where I came to be. I’ll see old friends there, but the invisible presence of you and Dad hidden among them will have vanished. I leave you now in the loving hands of your Maker.
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