A guy walks by and all of a sudden I miss my mother

17
Ruthie and me when I was a young fellow

By Chuck Woodbury
ROADSIDE JOURNAL
My office is in a bedroom on the second story of my home. The window faces the street. A young man, late 20s, just walked by talking loudly on his cell phone. “I’m sorry, Mom,” he said. “I just needed too vent.” That’s all I heard before I tuned him out. But I heard enough to make me feel sad — that I could not call my own mother.

She died 12 years ago, my sweet Ruthie. She was a kind, generous, happy person. She never said a bad thing about anybody. When presented with a problem, she just dealt with it and moved on. I’m like that, too, lucky me. Thanks, Mom!

My father always dominated family conversations, but when he was not around, she reminded me of a college girl — witty, playful, and incredibly funny. She was even goofy at times, a trait I inherited. My father was pretty stiff, so I know I got my goofiness from her.

Oh, I thought as I watched the young man walk by, what I would give to pick up my phone and call my mother. But I can’t, of course. Anyone who has lost a parent or other loved one knows the feeling.

I lost both my parents a few months apart. I already had my AARP card, so I was lucky to have spent many years with them. I read some books after they died about coping with the loss of parents. One book described children who had lost both their parents as “orphaned adults,” which I thought made sense.

When the books talked about grief, they said it often comes in waves. You don’t just deal with the loss and then, gradually the pain goes away. No, it’s not like that. You deal with it and, yes, the pain does diminish. Then one day, sometimes without warning, it returns. Like right now. The young man on the phone triggered it.

Four years ago Gail and I were in a coffee shop in Bennington, Vermont. It was an old-fashioned place, and the crowd was older — senior citizens mostly. It was a meat and mashed potatoes kinda place.

The strangest thing happened

An older couple came in and took a table across the room from us. I could not take my eyes off the woman. She was a dead ringer for my mother. She even held her fork in a slightly odd way, just like my mother.

I told Gail that I needed to introduce myself to her. And then I thought, no, I don’t want to bother her. But I kept staring. And staring. Our eyes met once. I worried that my staring was bothering her. I hoped she hadn’t noticed, but maybe she did.

Gail and I finished our dinner and walked to the counter to pay. But I could not leave without meeting the woman. I just couldn’t. So I walked to her table. “Excuse me,” I said, “but I wanted to tell you that you look so much like my mother that I couldn’t leave without telling you.” I told her my mother had died. The woman was very nice, but she just nodded her head, that was about it. Thinking back now, I believe I had hoped that she would have stood up and given me a big hug. Somehow I could have imagined for one brief moment that she was my Ruthie. I knew better, but one can hope.

Also, up close, the woman didn’t really resemble my mother as much as from a distance.

To this day, I feel a bit warm and fuzzy when I think of that evening. But I feel sad, too. I miss my mother as much today as when she left. Oh, what I would give for an hour with her. I have so much say. But then, I don’t know I would do much talking. I’d just want to hold her, like it would be forever.

I gotta stop. Getting too sad.

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Denise Gray
1 month ago

My mother died when I was 16. I still miss her and think about her everyday!

Tony
1 month ago

Chuck,
Thank you for sharing your story. My mom died almost two years ago and I was so busy taking care of my dad that I really didn’t have time to work through all the grief. Dad died mid April in the early days of COVID, with lot of turmoil related to medical care, etc. We will finally be able to have a small mass for him next week and bury his ashes. I miss them both very much and, as you say, it comes in waves.

those waves can be set off by the oddest things sometimes, but I’m sure the tears are healthy. You know we were loved when memories of them touch us so deeply.

Tom
1 month ago

My Mom has been gone since Sept 1967. We had lost everything including 1/2 the land in the farmer-induced flooding after Hurricane Beulah. He blew up an earthen dam that was holding back the flood waters because “it was flooding his fields.” My Dad had just medically retired from the USAF, I had just returned home after 4 years in the Army. Middle son was in Viet-Nam (Special Forces). Baby brother just back from Infantry tour in V-N. No free ride on American taxpayers after this hurricane.
Moms are special. I would love for her to know my wonderful wife (50 years) and her grandson.

Paul S Goldberg
1 month ago

In 2011 we flew across the country from our travel to Alaska for my mother’s 94th birthday. We celebrated with a lost mind who barely knew who we were and why we were there. She died the next day. that is not the person I miss. I miss very much the person who even in her 80’s was the mother who I grew up with and cherished. Unfortunately she was lost to us long before the body died.

Tom
1 month ago

Chuck. Wonderful story. My mom died just over 9 years ago at 96 years old, from lung cancer. Never smoked a day in her life but lived with smokers for 66 years. I live in CA and she in PA. I visited her about 2 months before she died. Leaving to return to CA was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do. The day before I left she told me she was tired and wanted to again be with my dad and her parents, this help the pain I was having.

Elaine Ashton
1 month ago

Chuck — this discussion about losing a parent was really beautiful. It choked me and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for thinking of this.

Beth
1 month ago

My dad died 20 years ago and I still need him when I want someone to lean on. About a year ago several of my relatives and myself went to breakfast. There was a man sitting across from us and he could have been my dad’s twin. Everyone agreed. He couldn’t hear us but I couldn’t stop looking. When we all got ready to pay, we were told our breakfast had been paid for. To this day I believe it was my dad sitting there that paid the bill.

Greg T
1 month ago

Thanks Chuck. I still miss my parents very much. When I’m in my home town I drop by the cemetery to say “Hi” to them and just chat. It really does help.
Somehow though I don’t see my boys and their families doing that with me after I’m gone. They don’t even come and see me now even though we only live 40 miles apart. It’s not that they don’t love me. I know they do. But times are different now and everyone is too busy.

Bob and Charlotte Champlin
1 month ago

I lost my mother in 1958 in a car accident just before my eleventh birthday. I was the oldest and had four sisters, the youngest was just ten months old. To this day, it is so difficult to remember even little things about her and I feel so sad for my youngest sister who has nothing to remember of her. From time to time I do also wonder what could have been, not just for us kids but, for our father as well.

Gordy
1 month ago

I guess my comment was too long, but to finish…. We all went home, about 3:30 A.M. we received the dreaded call…. Mom had passed at 2:38 A.M. Christmas Eve. Chuck, I think of her often almost daily. The hurt subsides, but sometimes it comes back in a rush (tears are streaming down my face as I write) but even as I relate the story of her last hours the wonderful memories of her float through my thoughts. All is well.

Gordy
1 month ago

I lost my Mother on Christmas Eve 1966, my firstborn was 6 mos. old I was 21. Mom was in a coma for a week with temps as high as 113 degrees, the Dr said she would be absolutely out of it if she awoke. 1130 P.M. she woke up, it was just as if she had been taking a nap. She knew everyone (all 9 of us) we were all there. She said she was hungry, my SIL fixed her pork chops, mashed potatoes, and green beans. After she finished her meal she asked to see her youngest grandchild, my daughter Jody. Retaining a lot of water, her wrist was swelled to where her watch almost disappeared the baby picked at and you could see mom flinch, she never said a word. She said she was getting tired and would need a nap soon. She told us she knew why we were there and not to worry she would be OK. We all shared our tearful goodbyes and she went to sleep. My brother Kieth said we should start watching in shifts as we had no idea how long it would be (we had all been there or nearby for a week). We went home

Jerry S.
1 month ago

Recently I was teaching at a hospital in Indiana. One of the surgical nurses looked very much like my mother, both facial features and physical build. I had never experienced this before, but like you I had to tell her. We chatted briefly and she allowed me to take her picture. My wife agreed there was some resemblance, but not as much as I thought. It was a nice memorable moment for me.

Debra Rohm
1 month ago

RE: “A guy walks by……”

I cried for an hour after reading your story.

I lost my Mom/Best Friend 5 years ago and I miss her every single day. Sometimes it’s a smell, sometimes it’s a song or a picture and a wave of grief hits me so hard that once again I am reduced to tears.

Richard Phariss
1 month ago
Reply to  Debra Rohm

My wife, a retired social worker, calls those episodes “STUG” attacks. That stands for Sudden Temporary Upsurge of Grief. It helps to know that the “attacks” are temporary and will pass.

Joan Fick
1 month ago
Reply to  Debra Rohm

Oh, I just shed tears, also, and I never weep any more. My Mum passed thirty-two years ago and I periodically want her mothering so much. I grew up in difficult times and never once felt fear that she must have had and never showed to us.

Michael Donohoe
1 month ago

I know this sounds cliche but I have no doubt, you will someday see your mother again as well as seeing, and talking with, all your loved ones who have passed to the other side. It’s easy for us on this side to look upon death as final, because to us it kinda is, someone we love is here one day and then absolutely gone the next. But they’re not really gone, regardless of your religion, your soul and personality survives the death of your body. Your memories of life and those you cherished remain as your possessions forever. Look forward in joy that one day they will be there to greet you when you arrive on the other side. Until then keep working on your experiences in life, loving your fellow humans as your brothers and sisters, that is all God requires from anyone.

Sink Jaxon
1 month ago

Well said Michael…God is real, He created all of us and He loves us… as we are all His children. And there IS an afterlife.