Nikki Eaton, single, thirty-one, sexually liberated, and economically self-supporting, has never particularly thought of herself as a daughter. Yet, following the unexpected loss of her mother, she undergoes a remarkable transformation during a tumultuous year that brings stunning horror, sorrow, illumination, wisdom, and even ' from an unexpected source ' a nurturing love.
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October 12, 2005
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Excerpt from Missing Mom by Joyce Carol Oates
Last time you see someone and you don't know it will be the last time. And all that you know now, if only you'd known then. But you didn't know, and now it's too late. And you tell yourself How could I have known, I could not have known.
You tell yourself.
* * *
This is my story of missing my mother. One day, in a way unique to you, it will be your story, too.
May 9, 2004. One of those aloof-seeming spring days: very sunny but not very warm.
Gusts of wind rushing down from Lake Ontario in mean little skirmishes like hit-and-run. A sky hard-looking as blue tile. That wet-grassy smell lifting from the neat rectangular front lawns on Deer Creek Drive.
In patches lilac bushes were blooming up and down the street. Vivid glowing-purple, lavender like swipes of paint.
At 43 Deer Creek, my parents' house, where Mom lived alone now that Dad had died, there were too many vehicles parked in the driveway and at the curb. My brother-in-law's Land Rover, my Aunt Tabitha's old black hearse-sized Caddie, these made sense, but there were others including a low-slung lipstick-red sports car shaped like a missile.
Who did Mom know, who'd drive such a car
Damned if I wanted to meet him. (Had to be a him.)
My mother was always introducing me to "eligible bachelors." Since I was involved with an ineligible man.
It was like Mom to invite people outside the family for Mother's Day. It was like Mom to invite people who were practically strangers into her house.
I parked the car across the street. I'd begun to whistle. It seemed to tamp down my adrenaline, whistling when I was in danger of becoming over-excited. My father had whistled a lot around the house.