There sits a small framed portrait of my mother on the top of the tall bookcase next to my desk at home. Beside the portrait is the plastic funeral urn that holds her ashes, and beside that is a plastic plant, because she was always good with houseplants and I am not.
In the portrait, her face is enigmatic. A little bit sad and a little bit proud. I didn’t see it
before, but I see it now and I know why.
She gave birth to four sons, raised them to be good men, and waved goodbye as each, in
turn, left to join the greater world. Thrice divorced, she lived alone with a
little dog, a little cat, a little goldfish, and a little jungle of
houseplants. Until she died.
I have a daughter. I raised her for eighteen years. I was her world and she was mine,
until she became a woman and left to join the greater world. I am happy for her
beyond all my capacity for emotion. I am proud of her with a selfish pride. I
made this. Look at my accomplishment. I am a craftsman who makes fine people.
Then I felt the sadness. I spent so much of myself preparing her for the greater world
that I forgot to prepare myself for a world without her. A hole in my life that
nothing else can fill. No dog. No cat. No goldfish. No stupid houseplant can
replace a child that no longer needs a parent.
There it was. That look on my mother’s face is the same one I see in the mirror now.