J and K sent Katja a beautiful bouquet for Mothers’ Day, and they had an early Sunday morning phone conversation filled with laughter and love. Katja was thrilled. She loves flowers and being remembered. As we started to get ourselves together for the day, Katja said she was out of bacon. I said I’d go to the grocery store, but she actually wasn’t that interested in cooking her own Mothers’ Day breakfast. We drove first to the Frisch’s on Central Parkway, but the overflowing parking lot indicated that all the mothers in Clifton were being celebrated at once. Instead we drove over to the Spring Grove Frisch’s which has fewer nearby mothers and always empty tables. As is our routine, Katja had french toast and sausage patties, and I made three trips to the breakfast bar. As we chatted, I said that having a child was the best thing we’d ever done, and Katja (as the person who actually had had the child) said absolutely.
After breakfast we drove over to Spring Grove Cemetery to stop by Helen’s and Buck’s grave. As we drove through the gates, Katja noted that J and K were going later that day to a second line parade. I had learned what the second line is on a recent trip to New Orleans, and I started to tell her about it. After a sentence or two, I started to choke up. I tried to say more, and the tears started flowing. I cried and cried as I struggled to get the words out. I still don’t know what that was all about. Apparently some mix of funerals and graves, dead parents, our children far away, Mothers’ Day, and the sheer poignancy of the second line itself.
Katja wondered aloud if she might plant a rose bush next to her parents’ gravestone. I thought the cemetery wouldn’t allow it. We were pleased to see that the cemetery workers had placed protective slats across the ivy growing on their plot. Their gravestone included an image of intertwined wedding rings and their wedding date. Looking at the birthdates, I’d forgotten that Helen had lived to 89 and Buck to 88, and I thought to myself that Katja still has many years to go. We joked about her folks staring down upon the gigantic crucifix at the bottom of the hill. Katja said she was happy about her parents’ decision not to be buried in a segregated Jewish cemetery. We stood in silence for a while, lost in our separate thoughts.
After the cemetery, we went to Rahn’s Greenhouse to see if they’d yet gotten a companion hanging flower pot for the one Katja had bought on Saturday. They hadn’t, but on our way out we were approached by a woman holding onto a handsome boxer dog. She was a dog rescue person, and she had found this particular dog running free on Spring Grove Avenue without a collar. She surmised that it had been abandoned, and she was seeking for a good home. Mothers’ Day at the greenhouse was probably a promising time and place to find potential adopters. The dog was friendly and sweet and looked as though it had been well cared for. As we drove out of the parking lot, both Katja and I independently expressed a wish to take the abandoned dog home with us. Fortunately we realized that this idea amounted to total insanity.
Sophie, Mike and Duffy’s younger sister, was visiting at our house for the weekend, so I took the three sheepdogs on a walk down Ludlow Avenue. I intended to take them over to Dunore Park, but, when we crossed the street, they literally dragged me down the side street to Rosie’s house. Matt answered my knock on the door and asked if I thought he should bring Rosie out. Rosie is a tiny dog compared to the sheepdogs, but she can definitely hold her own, so I said yes. We chatted a bit, and then Jennifer arrived back home from the grocery store. She was enjoying her own Mothers’ Day, with the children having cooked breakfast for her. Matt started talking about Star Trek when suddenly Rosie took off like a bolt of lightning, running to the neighbor’s lawn and disappearing behind the house. Jennifer observed what a good runner Rosie is. Matt ran next door to retrieve her, but unfortunately, he had no luck – Rosie had vanished. Jennifer was nonplussed and said she’d find her. The three dogs and I accompanied her up the block. We called out Rosie’s name at each house, but there was no Rosie to be found. Matt in the meantime got in their car and set out in the opposite direction. I was upset, feeling partially responsible for this catastrophe, but Jennifer remained relaxed about it all. We turned onto Evanswood at the end of the long block, and moments later Jennifer spotted Rosie in the arms of one of their friends’ children several houses up the street. She called out, and Rosie came running down the sidewalk as fast as she could. Jennifer smiled, and I breathed a sigh of relief. How could she be sure this would work out?
Sophie was visiting our house because Donna and her 86-year-old mom, Mayme, had driven a hundred miles to Louisville to have lunch with Donna’s daughter Rebekah (who herself had driven up 175 miles from Nashville). I’d said to Donna that I thought it was too far to drive for lunch, but, of course, I was wrong. A family reunion trip by three generations of women added a lot of significance to the day. On their way back home Donna and Mayme stopped by our house to pick up Sophie. Mayme is pretty frail, and the three sheepdogs jumped all over her as they walked up our back steps. I grabbed the dogs by the collars to pull them away, and Donna was angrily protective of her mom. We sat in the solarium, chatted about their trip, and looked at pictures on the digital camera of the three dogs that I’d taken in the forest. Because Katja and I no longer have mothers, I sometimes view Mayme as a substitute mother, and I felt good about having her at our house on Mothers’ Day. Taking a big car trip is no easy thing for an older person, and we were proud that she’d pulled it off successfully. She said that winding up at our house was one of the highlights of the day, and that made us feel good.
Katja and I had a quiet evening. We each missed our mothers on this special day, though we agreed that there was a certain relief in being beyond the stage of caring for aged parents. (Katja noted, though, that we don’t care for aged parents because we are the aged parents.) All in all, Mothers’ Day had been an evolving mix of rambunctious dogs, present and lost moms, and strong emotions all rolled up together. We thought about Donna and Mayme, and Jennifer and her kids, and all the other mothers of our family (Katja, K, Susan, Vicki, Margie, Faith, Rhys, Kazandra, Jennifer, Hilary, Linda, Jayme), and, most of all, Katja’s mother, Helen, and my mother, Doris. At our life stage, Mothers’ Day is a day of loss more than anything else. While both of our mothers were complicated and sometimes difficult characters, there is nevertheless no one in the world to whom one matters as much as one’s mother, and her loss leaves a void that can never be filled. It’s not an easy thing to be motherless. I guess that’s why I had cried a lot.