If the sky above you
should turn dark and full of clouds
and that old north wind should begin to blow
Keep your head together and call my name out loud now
and soon I’ll be knocking upon your door.
– “You’ve Got a Friend” James Taylor
Once upon a time, I was a girl with a mother. My mother seized life. You never knew when the Saturday would arrive when she’d say, “We’re overdue for an adventure.” We’d pack the car and head…wherever. She was my champion.The above quoted song was one of her favorites, and she’d belt that part out in a way that made me knew she meant it. I don’t romanticize her memory. Anyone who knew her would tell you the same.
The Saturday afternoon heat – abnormal, even for New Orleans, because it was November – as we drove to the hospital sticks out in my memory. My sisters argued about the position of the car vent. I won, because I bought her chocolate with my first paycheck, and I didn’t want it to melt. When we got off the elevator in the hospital, my aunt led us down the familiar hallway, but diverted us to a small room where my father stood in the doorway. For a split second, I was frozen. I couldn’t breathe, or move. It wasn’t until I cried that the rest of me began to work.
I was alone. And I was so angry at God for letting it happen. I was angry at myself for not being a better daughter. I was angry at the people who followed me around the hospital waiting area, not understanding that everything around me was so loud, I just needed to gather my own thoughts, because the person who talked me through every crisis was gone. Almost seventeen years later, it remains a gaping wound that has never fully healed. My daughter has her lithe bone structure. My son has the strong set of his jaw, which she always said was indicative of a good character. The fact that she’s never rocked them to sleep is something I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to reconcile. On days like today, when I have more questions than answers, I miss her most.
So I just try to be half as good as she was. I sing that same song lyric to them, sure and strong (and terribly), because them knowing that I would do anything to be there for them is of the utmost importance. My kids are at the age where nothing I do is cool, so they give me the embarrassed look as I sing, and then kiss them. But I don’t care. They deserve the same security that comes with having their own personal champion. Maybe one day they’ll be champions themselves.