I said I didn’t remember my last conversation with her, but that isn’t exactly true. For truly, the last one — the most recent — was on Sunday, Mother’s Day, after her funeral.
After I met my Uncle Thom for the first time. The one who called me when she was dying and when she did die. Who I knew from Facebook and with whom I share a special connection. Who, after we embraced, said, “Come, meet the rest of your family,” and introduced me to uncles and cousins and spouses while I wept behind my sunglasses.
After I met her friends from the Daughters of the American Revolution. The ones who told me how happy they were for our reunion. The ones who knew every nuance of our story. The ones who said I looked “just like my mother.” And whom I felt no need to correct with terms like “birth” or “biological mom.”
After I introduced myself to the minister and he threw his arms around me and pulled me to him.
I hadn’t made it to town in time for the viewing. The funeral was closed casket. My Aunt Julie made arrangements for me to see her at the funeral home after the ceremony. Before I went in, I called her and asked if I might tie a red thread around Pharen’s wrist, like the one I wear.
I explained in Kabbalah, mystical Judaism, this thread represents protection. That one wears it on her left wrist, the pathway of the artery to the heart. That one was placed on me after my Jewish divorce so that I would be reminded of what I am moving toward. For me, it is greater love. I didn’t know what it would be for Pharen.
She gave me her blessing and suggested I ask the director for help putting it on her.
We slipped the thread over her clawed hand and I tightened it. The skin of the dead feels strange. Rubbery. I didn’t like it. I felt badly about that. And then the director left me alone.
The thread didn’t go with her outfit. She was dressed in a gorgeous beaded suit, with a beaded clutch in her clutch. She had chosen this outfit some time ago and had discussed it in detail with Aunt Julie and I — all the way down to the pantyhose. I was surprised, but I shouldn’t have been. Though born in Detroit, she had become a Southern lady, after all.
I told her that I met the rest of the family. That I was staying with my friend April, who I had met last time I visited. That I would be seeing the boy we had talked about. That he and I had fallen into a beautiful and loving friendship, yet still I was anxious I might not see him.
I told her about meeting her friend Ely. That I said she had great style and she said I did too. That we discovered we shared a few things in common.
To all of this she said, “I know.”
I apologized for the times that it was hard between us. The times I put up walls. The times that I was afraid. Afraid she’d jump into my skin given half a chance. I did not apologize for the boundaries I learned to set for myself.
I apologized that the red thread didn’t match her ensemble but mentioned I thought she would like the idea of us having matching bracelets made of string.
I told her I called Robert, my birthfather, and let him know of her passing.
And I sang to her, just like I did in the hospital and on the phone. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. Gypsy.
“You come from far away with pictures in your eyes…”
And then I pulled up a chair and I listened. She told me she loved me about a thousand different ways. And she told me that I knew what to do. And that was all.
I left knowing that it had all already been said — when she was alive. And if perchance I had forgotten something, that I could tell her anytime. And if I”m quiet and lucky, and if I believe, I will hear her response.
Likely another, “I know.”