For months, I thought the answer to this question was that I was deep in denial. Talking about Mom, her opinions, her belongings, in the present tense, as if she were (and she sort of is) right here with me. But now that time has passed I'm beginning to believe my shortage of tears is a sort of tribute to who my mom was to me, to other members of the family, and who I am trying to become, as I adopt the mantle of the matriarch of a family traditionally dominated by singular, strong, fair-minded women not prone to the whims of fashion, time, or circumstance. My mother, her mother, and her mother before here were all only children, reared in upstanding Oregon homes. College educated, craftswomen and homemakers, learned but never beyond their station in life. The simplicity of austere, old-fashioned conservatism.
Coupled with this strong will and ordered mind was the discretion honored by many folks my parents' age and older, plus my mom's own inclination to a very private personal life. It wasn't until I was in my teens, (or perhaps older) that I learned that my own mother's parents were divorced when she was a young girl. How it escaped me, as I grew up, that she and her mother were alone, together for most of her formative years and beyond is a puzzle to those of us raising children in this day and age, sharing as many secrets and life experiences as we see fit. In a similar vein, the fact that I was adopted at birth was a hush-hush thing that even into my teenage years, we alluded to, rather than discuss directly. Finally, when we did discuss the adoption, my parents shared with me that the lawyer who brokered my adoption assured my parents that birth parents were "tall" so I might fit in with my family. I don't need to accent the extent to which that spirit has shifted today.
And so, my experience of my mother is one of a woman who was fiercely loyal, proud, loved my brother and I without wavering, and offered a vision of life as an ordered path which a hard-working soul could navigate. I have absolutely no recollection of my mother crying over the loss of her own mother, but I do remember vividly the weeks and weeks that she and my father and I spent, cleaning out that old Portland house. It was a job that she embraced. Certainly with love, and compassion for all of the memories and stories, but never in a maudlin fashion. Take care of business. My mother ran our own family with the charge of a highly intelligent, organized, purposeful being. In her absence, as I read her dictates to my brother and I, as we prepared for her memorial service, and as we divide our family's estate, the fact that she played her hand (as if it were bridge) perfectly. Not a stone unturned.