Written by M.J.C
Mom often wrote in a diary when she had free time from work and kids. She started writing after her divorce, and before and after her sickness. She only wrote while sitting up in bed, and usually with her door closed, a cup of coffee nearby, and when she was rested.
I also noticed that she wrote when it seemed to me that she was stressed. Mom wouldn’t talk about stresses nor would she share what she wrote. On occasions I could hear her laughing as she wrote and I would gently knock on her bedroom door and ask if I could come in.
“No,” she’d reply.
“Then what are you laughing about?” I’d ask.
”None of your business, leave me alone,” she’d respond. It wasn’t a harsh response; it was just matter of fact, like the women in her family always did. The conversation was closed, by her and them, and there wasn’t room for more questions.
I asked more questions.
How long will you be? Will you ever show me what’s in your diary? Can I write in it? Can I come in? How much longer will you be? Until finally mom would say: “Go. Away!
And that would be it.
Later, when she’d emerge from her room and from her world of writing she would always be in a good mood and that made me extra curious. I wondered what she written about me.
But mom never said what was in her diary/journal.
A few years later, when mom was really sick and I was caring for her, she asked for her diary because she wanted to write. She was perhaps too sick, tired, and weak to write, but she wanted to so I asked where she kept her diary and she said it was under her mattress.
She said she hadn’t been able to write in some time because she couldn’t lift the mattress to retrieve the diary.
I was sad hearing mom say those sad words.
I looked under the mattress and there was mom’s diary. I lifted it and it felt…Heavy. It was small, well used, golden cover, with little squiggly lines down the sides, but there seemed to be an extra weight to it; I projected weight to it I think.
Mom gently chided me and said “I know you want to read it; just hand it here.” And, “You don’t need to worry what I wrote since you’re with me everyday.”
And, “I’ll burn it before I die,” she said.
And then added this: “Besides, you’ll always have my portrait to drag around since you love it so much; my portrait is a complete story.”
I chuckled and said I would read it one day. But not on this day, as I handed mom the diary and and pen and went to my room.
When I returned thirty minutes later mom was asleep with the diary resting on her chest. The pen lay to the side and the cap was still on the pen. Mom hadn’t written.
Mom didn’t want to write, she wanted to read. She had a life inside those pages that I would later learn told tales of her life, kids, travel, love, questions for God, fear of life and fear of death, anger, lovers and girlfriends, and lovers who were girlfriends.
In her diary mom expressed fear and concern for her youngest daughter and how she would be as a teenager and young adult, and if she would have the support she would need.
And she wanted me to have a life outside of caring for her. She said she was happy I was there for her when nobody else was and she was sad that it seemed I was consumed with caring for her. Her conflicts continued as she wrote that she always knew I’d never leave her. ”He would never let me even walk away or look away without crying, when he was a kid and nothing has changed!” She wrote.
Finally, she wrote that she hoped I’d be able to move on at some point but she knew it would be hard. So she would tell me to “let go because I’ll always be with you. And my portrait will be staring at you for the rest of your life!”
I chuckled at that because she was right, as always. And mom never told me those thing she had hoped to tell me.
I closed the book and hid it in my room so that I could protect mom and a few of her personal stories from family and visitors who had taken to stealing mom’s things as they visited and when I was at work.
Mom never again asked for her diary and I never again mentioned it to her. Her story was complete.
I read mom’s diary in full two days after she passed as I sat alone in her bedroom.
I read it one more time, on mom’s first birthday after her passing and then I placed it where it would never again be found.