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BY TOM YATES

You can’t miss something that you don’t remember having. I’m a 51 year old baby boomer who still calls his phantom mother Mommy. That’s how we always referred to her and that’s what I always called her when she was alive. She’s been gone 47 years. I was 4 years old. They told me God needed angels.

Mothers are the storytellers of the family. They’re the keepers of the secrets and the memories. Mothers are the ones who remember how cute we were and the funny things we did. They reinforce our lives with their memories of us. Their memories become our memories. Even if some truths are stretched, tweaked, or embellished, they become real over time.

That’s what I miss. Have missed. Will continue miss. My story. Even all of my surrogate mothers and replacement mommies have taken their memories with them. Olga. Ababa. Granny. Marge. The gate keepers.

I’ve been told that all Mommy wanted was to have babies. She endured a lot of pain during several failures. Until me.They tell me I was her entire world and that she loved me endlessly. I look like her. She looks like me. I can see her in me. I’ve been told that she fought a brave fight and didn’t want to leav. God needed angels. I needed her, too. God won. I’m thankful that she loved me. I’m thankful for those who knew her. Their storytelling became her storytelling. I have memories of memories.

I no longer dream that I’ll bump into her at a 7-Eleven or the fort commissary. Those were dreams of childhood desperation. I know she is buried with my father at Arlington National Cemetery. When I stand over their combined grave, I feel physically close to her. When I quietly shut my eyes, I feel spiritually close to her.

This morning I opened her beaten up jewelry box filled with her picked over left-to-me pretty stuff. Her rhinestones, faux pearls, bowling pins broken charm bracelet add-ons, clip-on earrings, and den mother pins are tangible tokens I can touch.

I’m not sad. Not at all. I am thankful for what I had and have. Mommy, Janice Rose, Aunt Elizabeth, Ababa, Granny, and Marge. I’m thankful for all of my mothers and for all of my friends who are mothers.

The storytellers.
The gatekeepers.
Hold them close.

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