How to Live Without A Mother Part I


it’s that last song on the album and you don’t get to it in time, so the needle soars off the grooves on to the part where there is no more music to be played. And then you  think, I’ll just start the record again, or I’ll just play that last song again, but then you remember that the record can’t be played again. Ever.

how to live without a mother?

you pretend that your kids and your extended family and your colleagues and the loving and compassionate best friends you’ve had for decades and your lovers and your spiritual advisors and your artist sisters and your shrinks and your 12-step people and your tennis buddies will pull you along, tow you, if necessary.  And they will.

you get to be free in a new way. yeah, independent. you get to be lonely in a new way. in fact, you soon discover a new brand of loneliness.

there’s an understanding that’s been forced on you of limitation, of ending, of finite. And it’s heavy.  You remember that you only have a certain number of precious minutes and seconds to do whatever it is before your time runs out. The countdown is on and  you are suddenly in a hurry to live. You’re told to take it easy. Be kind to yourself. Does that mean you can eat tapioca rice pudding from Gelson’s for breakfast?

how to live without a mother?

you make reasonable choices. You accomplish what you can, knowing you must leave time to be still and do nothing. In that nothingness you are still doing something. You might even connect with her in that nothingness, in that stillness, but you won’t know unless you pause. But you’re afraid to pause because we are all afraid to pause.

You believe that there is a cycle of birth and death and this is just part of it. The worst part.

One day, if you’re lucky, you’ll be a grandmother, and then your mother’s DNA will vibrate inside that new person. This revival seems impossible yet promising.  Connective tissue, energy, atoms and molecules. The new person with traces of your mother’s DNA will  be very beautiful and funny and have good skin and hair. Guaranteed.

You remember that thing they say all the time when you go to the Buddhist Center about how we must accept suffering as a part of life. We cannot have a life without suffering. Now she is no longer suffering. You are.

You often remember her imperfections but you would like to go back in time to revisit each one.

You think of random things: nine-year-old you are cueing her on her lines for a Neil Simon play that summer in Lake Placid; trying on her shoes after getting lost in her walk-in closet; finding her empty vodka glasses under the skirt of the sofa, watching her curl her hair and expertly do her makeup; watching her getting dressed, wearing only  pantyhose and a bra, and thinking she looks like a model you’ve seen in a magazine;  measuring your height against hers, back-to-back.

You think of things to tell your own daughter and son about yourself. What must they know before it’s too late? You fear the idea that you’ll live some part of your waking life in bed as she did, and someone will look into your eyes, but you’ll be gone. You hope that doesn’t happen, but you fear it will. You fear it will because you saw it happen to your mother and you were helpless and she was helpless and she never did anything to deserve getting ill.

At the luncheon on Christopher Street, my two aunts and my daughter and I remember things about Pat. Of all my mother’s sisters, petite, dark-haired Lisa looks the most like her. Lisa reaches for something at the table and  her hands look identical to my mother’s hands. At least you want them to look identical.  Hands are so important.  Eyes and hands.

My father’s sister has so many stories inside of her about my mother and my father and her late husband.  They were all best friends, and she’s the keeper of the family stories.  But you’ve noticed, now that she’s 90, she doesn’t like to relive the past. When you ask her about the trips they went on together, she repeats, we had great times. Great times.

You hope your mother would have liked the luncheon  at the Italian place, with a handsome manager from Boston and pictures of Frank Sinatra on the walls. The food was good enough: alfredo, ravioli, mussels.  The company was better. Lisa reminded us of how funny my mother was. How she used to do imitations and “bits.” She was a comedienne at heart. Laughing and crying over the trauma of her childhood.

…laughing and crying, you know it’s the same release.  

You feel smaller than a spec and large enough to be the matriarch that you’ve become overnight.  You got crowned while you were asleep, but there was no time to give a speech.

how to live without a mother?

in your dreams, your mother brushes your hair, spraying detangler and laughing about what you’ve hidden in there.  in your dreams,  you kiss her freckled cheeks again and again.





Published by deirdremendoza

Deirdre is the author of the story collection, Real Lives of Married People, and the creator of DOGGED, a series about memorable canines and their human friends. Her writing has been published in Ms., The L.A. Times, Variety, WWD, and many other publications. She teaches creative writing at colleges and universities in Southern California. Coming in 2021 WG workshops!

One thought on “How to Live Without A Mother Part I

  1. this is very painful and very beautiful to read; i would call you now but i’m crying quietly, sitting and weighing these words. ouch and wow…love you deirdre.

    On Sun, Sep 2, 2018 at 1:08 AM Deirdre D. Mendoza wrote:

    > deirdre mendoza posted: ” it’s that last song on the album and you don’t > get to it in time, so the needle soars off the grooves on to the part where > there is no more music to be played. And then you think, I’ll just start > the record again, or I’ll just play that last song again” >


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: