I was more than half in love with this man when I met his mother. Mind you, it was not a momentous “Meeting His Mother” occasion but more an inevitability of where our families lived. Anyway, we were at his house when she walked in – a tall, slender woman with luminous skin draped in flowing green chiffon with white polka dots. Her face was narrow with fine features and wide, observant eyes. She seemed to float in the fabric.
When we were being introduced I could feel her shrewdly and probably accurately assessing me and my relationship to her son. It’s entirely possible she saw that I was besotted and that her son was not quite as invested. It’s possible. Anyway, she was very gracious and kind and seemed genuinely interested in talking with me – then a mere teenager. It made me a lot less nervous and I was grateful for it. She had a ready laugh and seemed delighted to discover I was fluent in languages other than English. She teased her son about his lack of mastery. When I left it was with a distinct impression that I had passed muster – at least with her. I was glad she liked me.
My budding romance with her son ended a bit later but over the years, I would run into her on occasion. We were always happy to reconnect and she treated me with a lot of affection. Though she insisted on my calling her by a more familiar address, I never could get out of the habit of referring to her as Mrs. S. She was a woman of many accomplishments and opinions and liked to talk about them. I know this did not sit well with other adults but it did not bother me. I enjoyed listening to her victories and vanities.
About five years ago, I met her at a party at her son’s house. It had been a long while since the son and I had met and I was quite apprehensive. I had taken a lot of care with my appearance. It was quite satisfying to have him open the door and be genuinely startled into saying “Hi! Wow – you look great!” When I walked in, I saw she was there and went up to meet her. Her reaction to my appearance was equally flattering and I think it actually gave me more joy. She was unadulterated in her pleasure at seeing me and was very complimentary. Her fine face seemed little lined and she had cut her hair short. Her clothing was deep maroon and it suited her. She looked lovely. Within a minute, we were in deep conversation and laughing together. Our connection had endured and it was quite special.
My last meeting with her was shortly after her husband had passed away. Though they had been estranged for years, the lines of strain and sorrow showed on her face. She smiled somewhat wanly and shrugged – as though to express regret for the lost years and the imposed solitude – while accepting my condolences. In the face of this complex emotion, I felt gauche and unable to respond in any meaningful way. I gave her a hug and we parted.
The past few years, whenever I visited my hometown I have meant to visit her but never got around to it. I knew that time was slipping away and that I should make the opportunity to see her. Recently, she suffered a massive stroke and was in a coma on life support at the hospital.
Now it’s too late. She floated away on her chiffon cloud today.
Be well, dear Mrs.S. I will miss you.