Faithful readers (wave everybody! all five of yuhs!) may remember that last year about this time Flat Stanley was writing about her mother, whose unexpected re-appearance after a 25-year absence coupled with her terminal illness, a fractured collection of offspring and the hint of an inheritance provided blog content.
The scene ripped holes in the shredded fabric of whatever kind of family you'd call the siblings of a cardboard storybook character, not to mention the delicacy of a cardboard heart. So when the old lady finally died, FS didn't have the heart to write about it.
It's been one year and three hours since the stubborn, scared, sad, bitter, lonely old woman outlasted her visitors, dieing 10 minutes after the last of them shuffled from her room for the night.
Flat Stanley was scheduled to conduct training at an international conference and wasn't going to miss it, so she blew off the funeral and went. The plane flew over Niagara Falls. The old lady and FS's father spent about six months living near there when FS was an infant. Wandering into the local town that weekend, FS was nearly cut off at the knees while visiting a bookstore. The old lady had once tried her hand at running a bookstore. FS threw rocks into the Bay of Fundy. The old lady used to like going to wild places like that.
FS did the training, collected the certificate. Made nice to the lady whose husband died the year before. Got on the plane, flew home. Over these 12 months, the old lady's death has been defined by (a) missing what could have been a great friendship and (b) sorrow that the old lady couldn't/wouldn't/didn't make a few different choices.
The area had several big snows this winter. FS remembers wading through thigh-deep snow looking for traps the years that the old lady tried trapping muskrats. The old lady once built four great bikes by scavenging parts from junk bikes. FS is handy fixing things and recently started riding bike again.
The old lady used to lead FS and any interested siblings on hours-long explorations of the surrounding hills. Today, FS hikes the AT and linking trails. The old lady was well-read and fascinated with ancient culture. FS has a history degree. The old lady finished college when FS was in junior high. FS finished when her kids were grown.
Today, one of FS's brothers refuses to speak to either sister; the other brother calls occasionally when he's drunk and hurting to try to pick a fight. FS refuses to associate with relatives from her mother's side of the family. History repeats itself, and FS is content to let it, to a point.
FS used to worry that she'd leave her own children when they became difficult teenagers. The kids became teenagers and were at times difficult. FS stayed. FS has worried that having a cardboard heart makes her shallow. The old lady's heart wasn't shallow. It was fractured and tender, willed to steel-strong and rendered gossamer weak through overuse. FS used to worry that she'd let anger and bitterness dictate her life, like the old lady did. She hasn't.
FS faces the next 25 years without the mother she didn't have the past 25 years. Here's tipping one to you, Mom, sincerely wishing you the very best that's possible where ever you are, where ever you go, who ever you become.