Mom's suitcases are packed and she's ready to depart the station. She doesn't have many; I helped pack the last one. It's also ready, but not yet locked.
One suitcase is filled with childhood memories up until she left home to get married at age 23. She came from good parents who lived their lives with their only child in San Francisco, then Burlingame. They lived well, but didn't have a lot of money. They were a core group of three until Dad, then my sister and me. Her parents died very young--both in their mid 60's--and within 10 days of each other. One of "natural causes" and one by her own hand. Very sad time for Mom who then got thyroid cancer and her favorite boxer Rex died all within a few months. She remained composed through it all and never let her children see her sadness.
The largest one is 50 years old and is all about her marriage to my dad. Anyone who knows me has heard me say they got up smiling and went to bed smiling. Their world revolved around friends and they socialized every week with different people. I started to say "family and friends," but that wouldn't really be true. My mother used to say, "the kids came to live with us," meaning their lives and what they wanted to do was more a priority. Good thing she can't read this--she'd be irate at my honesty. My sister and I were left with sitters every Saturday night, at least once a month on Sundays for their poker group, and sometimes on Friday nights. They would also go to Tahoe or other short trips and leave us with sitters, some from an agency we wouldn't even know. When we were younger, we did family trips to a resort outside Chico and sometimes my grandfather joined us. When I was a teen, we went to a few places--Yosemite, Carmel--but when we went to Tahoe every year, we'd spend the days together, but they'd take off for dinner and gambling in the evenings.
I'm not complaining about my childhood--we were a happy family and I didn't feel neglected at all. But this suitcase is all about her life with Dad. They enjoyed each other's company more than anyone else's, including their daughters. Marianne learned from her experiences and she always put her three boys first as a result. What I learned is it's not realistic to believe I'll wake up smiling and go to bed smiling every night.
Her final suitcase is about life after Dad who died in 1996. She continued on, but it wasn't easy. She was so proud of how she picked up his exceptionally kept records and check register and continued on just as he had. She did well until a few years ago when she started getting nervous every time I left the country. She decided to move into senior housing, and we both felt better that she had neighbors close by and a place where dinner was served and she no longer had to cook.
The final blow was when Marianne died in 2001 from metastatic breast cancer. Mom could never talk about her or tell stories to her boys. She was never one to tell stories much anyway, and once a suitcase was closed, she kept it that way.
So now she's close to locking that final case. I know she's ready and has been for quite awhile. Yesterday she seemed to be talking to someone else who wasn't in the room, so I asked if she was talking to Dad and Marianne, and she gave me a huge smile. I asked her to tell them I love them since she now has a direct line to the rest of my immediate family. It helps to think they'll all be together and that Mom will leave this station and be met at her new destination with open arms.