I used to love Fall like everyone else. I used to love watching the leaves change color on the mountains. The brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. I used to love feeling the weather turn cooler and bringing out all my sweaters and hoodies to wear. I used to love going to the pumpkin patch and watching the joy on my children’s faces as they picked out just the right pumpkin to carve later. I used to love carving pumpkins and getting messy and goopy. I used to love Halloween and searching for the right costumes that my kids wanted. I used to love the transition into November and getting ready for Thanksgiving. I used to love all those things.
And now, Fall, Autumn, is a sad time for me. Everything about Fall reminds me of when my mother was sick and dying of cancer. She was diagnosed right before Fall started. The dying leaves and trees were symbolic to me of my mother’s dying organs. I spent most of October 2007 on the blasted 5th floor of the hospital. I sat for hours in the waiting room. I didn’t want to disturb my mother’s rest by being in her room, except for a few short moments when she was conscious. I had a front row seat in the waiting room of the mountains, the leaves changing color, dying, and then falling to the ground. Now when I see those same mountains change color, I am no longer filled with joy because of the beauty I’m surrounded by. I am forever reminded of the month I spent in the hospital waiting for my mother to die.
I used to like Halloween. My kids love finding their costumes. My wonderful mother-in-law took over the costume procuring for me that year because she knew I was incapable of doing it. My daughter wanted to be Glinda, from “The Wizard of Oz.” Since she was tiny, that was her favorite movie. My mother-in-law is very talented and made a Glinda costume for her from scratch. That costume is literally a masterpiece. For my son, she bought a pair of overalls, a denim shirt, a red bandanna, and a train conductor hat. At three years old, he was obsessed with trains, especially of the Thomas variety. I didn’t know that Halloween would be the last time my children ever saw my mom, their grandma, alive again. We took them up to the hospital in their costumes. My mom had just been taken off chemotherapy and was transitioning to hospice. She was lucid and so happy to see the kids. It was the happiest I had seen her in months. She loved my daughter’s costume and marveled at my mother-in-law’s craftsmanship and talent. We brought the kids in one at a time and didn’t stay too long in order to not overwhelm her. If I had known it would be the last time, I would have ‘whelmed her. Six days later she was gone.
That first Thanksgiving without my Mom was weird. We had just been through the funeral and the whole shebang a week and a half before. Several people invited my whole family over to their house for Thanksgiving. My in-laws invited all of us including my dad, brother, and my sister and her family. My sister’s mother-in-law did the same thing. We decided we wanted to close ranks and just be together. So we had the smallest Thanksgiving dinner I’ve ever been a part of. We had it at my house. I cooked the turkey. It was my first turkey and it was delicious (despite the fact that my dad and sister called me several times that week making sure I knew how to cook a turkey). My Dad brought crystal goblets that used to belong to his mother. He made a toast to my mother that was lovely and heartbreaking at the same time. We ate, laughed, remembered, cried, grieved, and loved as a family that day. We were all broken down, our hearts open wounds, not knowing that in a year’s time our lives would be completely different.
So you see, I don’t look forward to Fall anymore. When I see the first tree turn it’s leaves from green to red, I mourn. I mourn for what I used to have and can never have again. I mourn for my old life. I mourn for all the moments I took for granted in a blissful ignorance of believing my Mom would live until I was at least old myself. I mourn for my children. Their memories of her are already fading. And until the last leaf falls from the last tree, I am reminded of what I once endured and by miracle survived sanity intact, if not a bit scarred.
“Just because I’m hurting, doesn’t mean I’m hurt. Doesn’t mean I didn’t get what I deserved. No better or no worse.”