Dear mom, It’s your birthday tomorrow, June 10th. You would be 90 years old if you were still with us.
I see you in my hands and my sloping shoulders that barely keep my bra straps up – just like yours. I see you in the mirror before bed when I put my anti-aging cream on (as if it makes a difference) and have to smile. I feel your presence these days in the simplest of tasks that I do, like folding laundry or hand washing delicate clothes and hanging them on our clothesline thats strung between the two big palm trees in our garden. After years of rarely using an iron, I have started to iron, and once a week I take the ironing board out and set it up facing the “garden” or “yard” as they say here. It’s a different view from home, mom. No dreary, cold, wet skies to see, no clothes hanging over the radiators to dry with steam rising into the air.
It’s all sunshine in Palm Springs, California, and a brilliant blue blue sky that dazzles the eye. I fill up a small pyrex jug with water and pour it into the iron and set the temperature to medium high, then methodically starch and iron piles of pillowcases for our Airbnb guests’ beds. It’s a meditative process for sure, and it sometimes takes me back to Allen Park and you ironing away watching Countdown or some other quiz show.
I think you’d be proud of me mom. I have accomplished something new here. I’m an Airbnb Super Host no less. And, I love it. It’s changed our lives in many ways. Our oasis has become a little boutique hotel (laugh out loud)! and we have wonderful travelers visit from all over the world and we get paid for it. I can just hear you. You do WHAT Louise? – let strangers stay in your house and sleep in your beds?
Do you remember when people took in foreign students for the summer in Dublin back in the day? You’d have a thing or two to say about it, like it was a terrible thing. Positive thinking wasn’t your strong point Ma and when you’d tell me I couldn’t do this or that it infuriated me. It’s the Irish way of the past. But you and dad were my mentors in the hosting department with your legendary parties and home entertainment and I don’t mean TV. We had amazing singsongs where everyone had their song or ballad to sing and you with your political recitations with endless stanzas that brought a tear to the eye. You guys taught me how to host and take care of people from an early age and I’ve been in training all my life to serve one way or the other and have done that for the most part.
Tis only now that I can look back and get a keener understanding of you. I wish we could have a cup of tea together and a real talk. I wish you could meet Jacob, your grandson, and see what a beautiful, brilliant young man he has become. He lives in New York now mom, and is finding his place in the world.
It’s been over two years since your departure from this plane and I am finally feeling your loss. My busy life didn’t leave much time for reflection and my meditation practice in the formal sense of the word I set aside. I got lost in the wonders of technology. Life became active with one task after the next to finish and I became obsessed with the news and the political situation, both here and abroad. World newspapers filled up my phone screen and my phone became a permanent fixture in my hand or my big back pocket, an appendage to my body and it even followed me to the bathroom.
Airbnb guests filled up the calendar throughout the season, arriving and departing. It’s a full time job now and we are blessed. My hands and fingers are stiff and cramped from typing on the phone, and the computer. Can you imagine that I wrote down the details of my daily life and photograph our lunch or dinner and anything else that inspired me, then I’d post it on social media along with the rest of the world.
You, with dementia for all those years had no clue what social media was – Facebook or Instagram, Twitter and the rest of it. You didn’t remember who we were, your daughters and sons and grandchildren. I remember you, and by taking time out these past five months I can feel my breath again and allow the sadness to surface.
Happy Birthday Esther O’ Reilly Lowry, known as Essie to all your family and those who love you. You will be remembered.
With love and gratitude,
Your daughter, Louise