The Mysterious After-Mom

by Laura

What do you call the mom that’s no longer living? Mom? She was Mom. She isn’t Mom. She’s become this new thing in my brain, this After-Mom. Apres-Mom? Posthumous-Mom? Memory Mom?

I worry that all this thinking about After-Mom will start to mythologize her. She wasn’t larger than life. She was life. She wasn’t super human or anything. But thinking about her in her absence, she’s become this thing that’s slightly different, different enough that it makes her feel even farther away from me. After-Mom is someone beyond the good ol’ Mom who’d call me up and say, “Hi honey. How are you?” No, After-Mom has special qualities. She skips through time. She’s 1981. She’s 2008. She shape-shifts. Mom with blonde hair. Mom with no hair. Mom with a shock of bright white hair. Mom when she got that ill-advised perm. After-Mom’s words are more meaningful or cryptic. After-Mom’s food has magical flavors that cannot be tasted since her passing. And After-Mom has the most special scent in the entire universe and it’s fading from her clothes like the sun setting on a day so wonderful you don’t want it to end. I read on someone’s blog (Forgive me, I can’t think of whose at just this moment) that you shouldn’t let yourself get attached to that smell. But there’s no way not to. There just isn’t.

I suppose it would be easier to imagine she’s just regular old Mom, up there somewhere, on a cloud or wherever, just doing her thing somewhere else. My Mother-In-Law likes to see things this way. I got to hear all about that over Easter weekend. We sat around the table drinking some of the world’s finest whiskey (Well, not me. I passed on it. I didn’t care for the smell and figured it would be wasted on me. Someone poured me wine instead, but it was a cloying Moscato and I apologized for not finishing that either) and Mother-In-Law kept talking about how Mikey and Grandpa Sheehan and Uncle So and So were up there on a cloud (Always with the clouds), jealous, saying, “Hey, why can’t we have some of that!?” Because apparently, in Irish heaven, you still can’t get the good stuff.

Whatever, It makes her smile, and my daughter just keeps her mouth shut. Not sure how the toddler will handle all that as time goes on, but I’ll deal with that another day. After-Mom’s not doing that, because After-Mom is in my head. In My Mother-In-Law’s world, there is no After-Mike or After-Grandpa. They still exist. They do all the things they ever did. They just do it with Jesus. Or something. I don’t know. My brain can’t grasp it. I can’t force myself to think that Mom is hanging with Jesus at the symphony, coveting my iced tea. Maybe you have to be told that kind of thing your whole life, because I can’t believe that wishing it were so would be enough to convince me. Do Believers think we don’t want to believe in Heaven? Do they think we don’t want to see our loved ones again? No one whoever loved, secular or otherwise, could want anything more. Still, they make promises. “You want to see your mother again? We can give that to you. We have that gift of everlasting life for you, if you’ll only believe.”

It’s so incredibly insulting. Pushy salesmen in an empty store.

The sign outside one of the five million churches I pass on the way to the train station says “Only a fool doesn’t believe in God.” Well, fuck you very much, stranger. Have a delusional day!