Shirley

I guess I just figured she’d always be here.

Probably because she always has been for me.  Wrapped around every big life moment of mine and a heap of little ones was a smile from her.  A smile, and a smattering of compliments, a ready hand, a relatable story, and a big ol’ heaping helping of unconditional love.

I could never quite figure out what I did to deserve her constant love.  She had the most amazing daughters of her own.  They are incredibly smart and funny and beautiful.  I was just someone else’s kid.  To everyone else’s eyes, I already had a mother.  She had keen perception though, and realized that I needed a mom.  So when the time was right and it was safe for her to step in, she offered mom-love to this grown girl that desperately needed it.

It felt like grace — her love.  Once I said to her, “Thanks for loving me so much.”  She, with her straightforward way replied, “Honey.  You never have to thank me for loving you.  I just do!”  I don’t think I ever gave back — certainly not to the extent that she gave to me — that’s bothering me now.  She just heaped love on me, and all I had to return was love and awe for her love to me.  I hope that was enough.

We talked for hours — about everything and nothing.  I’ll miss that the most.  The way she made me feel funny an important and valued.  She made me feel like I was remarkable.  I bet she did that for everyone.

She was my champion.  She knew moments of my life that no one else knew.  She stood up for me many times because she knew the true story.  She was my example.  She showed me how to be available and pour out love without pushing too hard.

I think of her like a little bird — flitting about taking care of everyone.  Oh, how she loved her girls and her grandkids.  I heard about their dogs and cats and the ensuing adventures, college choices, prom dates and soccer games.  She was just so proud of each of them.  So proud.

And she drew me in to that.  She was proud of my kids.  She would come into my living room and plop Indian style on the floor and look them in the eyes and ask them relevant questions — smart questions about them and what they were up to.  She remembered details and always seemed interested in what mattered to them.  She always had a gift for me or someone in my family and an excuse to give it.  So generous.

She just had this way of making me, and I suppose everyone around her, feel like they had such worth and value.  She was just always there.

And now she’s not.  And I can’t quite grasp that.  She’s always been way too full of life to be not.

I’m trying not to allow regret, but the last time I saw her was the day we moved.  My world was in boxes and chaos and my house full of people packing.  She pulled me aside to give me a gift that I will cherish forever.  And then later, somewhere in the cacophony of noise she caught my eye and stated, “I’m leaving.  I might cry so I’m leaving.”  She just walked out the door.  And that was it.

It wasn’t enough.  It will never be enough.

I wanted to show her my new home.  She and I had plans and I was saving some special firsts for her.

She was the closest thing to a mom I’ve ever had.  I’m grateful beyond words.

And a little piece of my heart is broken.

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