You Have A Story To Tell (a visit from my mother)

My Mother. 1943

I suppose it had to happen.

After taking a break from visiting me while I was in the bath, my mother returned. For one last visit, at least for this year or until I do something, or don’t do something that makes her want to shake me up, as is the case now, she tells me as I lay immersed in hot, bubble-laden water, trying to ignore her presence.

“You can’t ignore spirit,” she says. Her voice is laced with more of her French accent than it was in the past. It’s stronger, more sing-songy too.

“What happened to your Holly Golightly get-up?” I ask, wanting to avoid at all costs, any conversation with my dead mother about spirit. If we never had those conversations in real life, why would we have them now?

In her previous visits, she was always dressed, a la Holly Golightly of Breakfast at Tiffany’s fame, in a red satin cocktail dress, black high heels, bouffant hair sprayed stiff. In one hand she held a martini glass. In the other a long ebony cigarette holder.

“Oh that. She was for you. You always wanted me to be a little more flamboyant than I was. So, I decided in this iteration of my being, I’d at least make myself over into someone you could relate to.”

Surprised, the bubbles wafting up around my hands as I tried, vainly, to vanish this latest apparition of my mother, I sputter and say, “You’re dead. You’re not here. I am alone in the bath.”

“Well, you’re definitely alone in the bath. I am no longer in need of such cleansing. But, I am definitely here. Sort of like a message in a bottle, only this time it’s in a spirit. And she does that thing I seldom recall hearing her do in life. She giggles.

My mother started appearing, (always while I was in the bath), shortly after she… passed over, as she likes to call it. “The spirit never dies,” she says. “After its human journey, it returns to its eternal state, energy, or as you humans euphemistically call it, Love.”

Originally I wasn’t that surprised to see her. We had a lot of unfinished business and I needed to clean it up to heal.

I thought we were done. Which is why I am surprised to see her. After several attempts to conjure her up earlier this year when it became clear her visits were over, I’d decided she was gone. Forever.

Which was a bit of a relief. I felt very uncomfortable entertaining my mother while I was in the bath. No matter how high I piled on the bubbles, I always felt she could see right through me.

And in spirit form, she always could.

Something I didn’t give her much credit for in life.

I always thought she was so immersed in her own stories of worry and woe, she couldn’t see me, at least not the real me. The one I liked to think I was in the world.

It took many of my adult life years, and hundreds of hours in therapy, to get to a place where my anger and disappointment in what I judged as her inability to be the mother of my dreams, didn’t interfere with my capacity to love her as the mother she was. Human. Flawed. Imperfect. Carrying her own history. Her own schtick.

Just like me.

And then, she died just before her 98th birthday leaving me to deal with my grief that in life, I’d never found the secret to being the kind of daughter to her that my daughters are to me.

“You know you’re doing it again, Louise, ” she says as if reading my mind, which apparently, in spirit form she can, she reminds me.

“What’s that?”

“Well, for one, right now, you’re trying to play innocent. Like you don’t know what I mean when you do.”

I sigh. I am positive she was never this perceptive, nor direct, in real life.

“What you are living right now is not ‘real’ life, Louise. Take it from me. It gets a whole lot more real on this side. In fact, all you get is real over here, ’cause you no longer have to hide behind your smile, or make-up, or pretending you’re anything other than who you are. Yourself. On this side, judgment, criticism, one-upmanship… it all vanishes as spirit claims the purity and love at its essence. It’s quite refreshing actually.”

It is about the longest speech I’ve ever heard her give. Not to mention the deepest.

And with that, she begins to merge with the air around her.

“Quit hiding,” she tells me on a parting breath. “Write the story. You have something to say.”

And with that, she is gone.

I am alone.

Or am I?

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