Today would have been my mother’s 79th birthday. She died less than two weeks after her 65th. I remember celebrating with her on that day in 1999—she was in hospice care at my sister’s house—and how awful it was that we all knew it was her last birthday. Such celebrations seem like they're largely about the past and the future and it’s just weird when you know for a fact that there is no future—at least on this plane. I do believe that I’ll “see” my mom again, and that when I do it’ll seem like not much time has passed. But down here, the 14 years that have come and gone since she died seem like an eternity. I channel my grief into great sadness that she never got to watch Leah and my nephew Spencer grow up and that she never even got to see Charlie or my nephew Sammy. Charlie is so lucky to have my dad and Kendall’s mom, Betsy, both grandparents extraordinaire, but, oh my God, how he and my mother would have loved each other. She would have eaten him up with a spoon and I can imagine updating her constantly about his every move.
This weekend we had a visit from someone I used to work who was in town with her mother who was attending her 60th college reunion. We were having dinner with them when Charlie took off his glasses and said he wanted to go “nuzzle” this woman, Audrey. It was so sweet and it tore my heart out to think of him “nuzzling” with my mom. I know if she were alive she’d be visiting us often in Los Angeles and would not be able to keep her hands off of him. And while we have a few photos of Leah and my mom together, with their identical shades of gorgeous red hair, she mostly remembers her from those photos—she was the age Charlie is now when my mother died. Sigh.
Charlie’s 4th birthday was the weekend before last and I can’t believe that I didn’t mark the occasion with a blog post, it’s the first time that I’ve ignored that day on here. My selfish reason is that I was completely wrapped up in the TCM Classic Film Festival that was going on that weekend in Hollywood. I watched more than 12 hours of movies a day that weekend, chatting it up with people like Max von Sydow, Eva Marie Saint, and Jane Withers. Oh, I took some time out Saturday to be with the birthday boy and watch him blow out the candles on the amazing garbage truck cake that Leah made for him but the truth is that this year I was sort of relieved to be distracted with another event. I know that sounds horrible, and I’m thrilled that Charlie had a great time on his birthday, which is and should be a very happy day in our family, but, between you and me, I’m not sure Kendall or I will ever be able to forget the horrific trauma we went through that day four years ago when Charlie and his brother Oliver were born at only 24 weeks. They came into this world via an emergency caesarean at about 9:30 am that day and Oliver died about 12 hours later at 9:30 pm.
Trust me, there’s no need for any lectures on “living in the moment” and appreciating the abundant joys of my life because I do, I really, really do, and I “accept” (whatever that means) the deaths of Oliver, who we never got to know, and my mother, who we wish so badly we had for longer. But there are times when the grief over their absence pinches just a little bit more than usual and I admit that part of me was grateful to be otherwise engaged. I’m about to head to the airport for a quick work trip to Las Vegas and find that I’m also glad to be busy with activities today, too. But, of course, I’ll always think of my mom on May 10th and forever. We love you, mom!