Teresa G. D’vall
Uncle Wiggly is a board game introduced by Milton Bradley in 1916 and themed around a rabbit who does a lot of hopping through the forest for reasons I no longer recall. My mother played it with me as a child and I was thrilled to find an edition on Amazon as an adult. It’s also the only game she played with her grandchildren, reluctantly, the last time she visited my home for Christmas, too many years ago.
My three toddlers couldn’t really follow or remember the rules and Mom was beginning to suffer from short term memory loss so neither could she. I was desperately trying to manage a house still floundering in a disarray of leftovers and strewn with gift wrap. When I saw her on the floor with them I stood still; mesmerized by the novelty of it all. Even though they didn’t play very long and no one reached Dr. Possum’s house; there was a lot of laughter that day. It would be the only memory I have of my mom with her youngest grandsons. They called her Uncle Wiggly instead of Grandma after that. There weren’t many things that made Mom smile; but that moment did.
On October 25, 2014, I said goodbye to my mother for the last time. I wouldn’t know it until almost exactly a month later, when she passed away unexpectedly at the age of 69, and was only able to pinpoint the date because I’d brought a sick child to the pediatrician that morning. Afterwards, I was about to drive past her neighborhood and knew I hadn’t taken the time to see her in awhile. Visits were always uneasy because she’d repeat herself often, without realizing it. As my mini van approached the steep, familiar hill with the sign at the base welcoming me to Pleasant Valley Country Club, a nagging feeling urged; even though I was busier than usual:
“Turn now, go see her.”
Tumultuous would be a kind way to describe our relationship throughout most of my life but early senility had softened my mother. Forgetfulness made her less critical. Rarely, if ever, did she reminisce about mistakes made during my youth now. The downside was she couldn’t remember accomplishments either. When I earned my bachelor’s degree the year prior, I never told her. V.K. Ezzo was an author too, who also wrote under a pen name, yet I never revealed that I had published my first book. For some reason, I chose to tell her both that day. Although brief, the visit would have been memorable even if it hadn’t been our final one. My Mom did two things for the first and last time that day. She said she was proud of me; then she hugged me.
Glancing back at her in the front yard, I noticed how frail she seemed, and thought that if it was the last I ever saw her, it was the most meaningful time we spent together. She was smiling as I pulled away. There are only a few moments in life we remember with the kind of clarity that remains etched in our minds whether we want it to or not. As the one year anniversary of her passing approaches, I am reminded how important it is to savor each one.
Meetings, deadlines, unfinished projects, children and the school activities that accompany them tend to keep our focus on what needs to be accomplished instead of enjoying the moments we think there’s no time for. The future we’re planning shouldn’t impede the present; but it often does.
Laundry can wait; work will be there tomorrow. Our house is cluttered because we live in it. The urge to complain about vacuuming bits of uncooked spaghetti from everywhere because the kids think pasta is a toy wanes with thoughts of how clean it will be once they are grown. Why is there a rock in the refrigerator? Who cares.
I turn my head more often now when they say ‘Look!’, whether I’m busy or not. They tell me about their score and I listen, even though video games ceased being important to me long ago. If they say “Mommy come here!” I go. I feign attention if I don’t have time to pay it.
I visit my dad for no reason whenever I can.
Other than the early basics, there are only a few things I remember my mother teaching me. When to use my high beams. How to look at the white line to guide me in the dark while I drive. At 43 years old; I wasn’t expecting any new lessons.
During an impromptu visit, because I turned up her hill at the last second; even though I didn’t have time to; my mother taught me for the last time.
The briefest moments can become a cherished memory. You never know which could the last one, or the only one, so don’t miss any of them.