My mom is turning 88. 88! I can't believe it. Her birthday this year falls on Father's Day, not a favorite day of mine. My dad died 22 years ago at the age of 62, so it's just one of those days when there is a void in my heart. As time heals, voids may not feel as thick as they once did, but they continue to linger and gently tap my sentimental self to know they are still there. Surrounding this darkened space this Sunday though will be the celebrated light of my mom reaching this remarkable age of 88.
If my dad were alive today, he would be 86. I can't even imagine him at this age. If I had the opportunity to ask him what I should get my mom for her birthday, I know he would tell me to keep taking care of her the best I can. He would ask me to continue to make an effort to spend time with her because time keeps ticking. He would want me to celebrate her not with wrapped boxes of gifts but with recognizing something that was important to him: the value of time. He would remind me that money and material things have nothing to do with the sacred gift that has always been important to my mom, which is spending time together and sharing experiences that create memories that last a lifetime.
In the house where I grew up, we had a clothesline that stretched over the entire length of the patio. I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure that this was the only outdoor clothesline that existed in our neighborhood. When she was growing up, I don't think my mom's family had a clothes dryer, and I distinctly remember the clothesline that stood proudly in my grandparent's yard. Even though we had a dryer, my mom preferred drying our laundry, especially the bed sheets, in the fresh spring and summer breeze on the clothesline on the patio. The simplicity of this brought her pleasure and closeness to her classic Italian roots and never forgetting from where she came. To this day, I can feel the texture of the wooden clothespins. I can still clearly see the handmade clothespin bag, bulging and bulky with pins. The young girl weaving herself in and out of the maze getting lost between the various hanging fabrics still lives in me. There was a sense of freedom and expansion of time back then. The irony is that my mom in these memories was about the age I am now. When I think about how I routinely shove my laundry into a restricted barrel of timed heat, it makes me feel claustrophobic for our sheets and clothes. It makes me want to lather anti-aging cream all over their wrinkles. Maybe I should bring back the clothesline even if for memory's sake. A gift like this doesn't need a box or to be wrapped.
Yes, this is what I will do. I will give my mom the gift of reminiscing about our times and adventures together, each a unique postcard from our travels through our relationship over the years. If I could add it to her current patio, I would make her a clothesline and hang these memories for her to look at through her window as the Cardinals feed on her bird feeder and the wildlife are at play. Together, we could sit and watch them fly freely in this season's breeze. I wouldn't doubt that in the wind we would feel my dad's breath filling the space of our void with his love and kissing us with the splendid value of time.
Happy Birthday mom. Happy Father's Day dad.