Susan Petrone: When Our Mothers Die, We Become Unmoored

When our mothers die we come unmoored. There is no one to call on a Wednesday night to ask how you can tell if frozen food is still good; how you know if you’re really sick or just have a normal cold; or the best way to get a stain out of your favorite shirt.

There is just you.

If you’re lucky, you have someone–a husband, a wife, a roommate, a best friend–to puzzle over these things with you. But still, it’s just you and your little brain in your car, alone, at 8:15 on a Monday morning looking for someone to tell you that everything will be fine in a way that makes you actually believe it.

When your mother dies, there is no one to tell you that you’re doing things right, or more crucially, about to make a faulty major life decision.

If you’re lucky, you and your little brain will someday be called “Mom.” If you’re lucky, if you want it, you will become the center of another human being’s universe, a human who will ask you the best way to lace your shoes or make chocolate chip cookies. Your method of making scrambled eggs will live on it another person’s little brain as the best and only way to make them.

You will teach and instruct and advise and someday, somehow you will come to know the answers to all the questions this young human being may pose. If you don’t know, you will make them up, but you will never lie. Just as you suddenly knew all the words to every song in the top 40 when you hit 8th grade, you will just know. And you will trust your gut and will be able to answer all the questions except the one about why one day you will unmoor your child.

Susan Petrone is the author of Throw Like a Woman, published by The Story Plant.

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