Teresa was the only one who knew what it was like to give birth to our two kids.

Teresa was the only one who knew what it was like to be the mother of our two kids.
Teresa was the only one who knew what it was like to be married to me.
Teresa was the only one who knew what it was like to be her parent’s youngest daughter, her sibling’s youngest sister/sister, daughter-in-law to my parents, sister-in-law to my sisters.
Teresa was the only one.
Over the last three months different thoughts have hit me at different times. Some thoughts have hit hard and continue to reverberate through me today. Some thoughts sneak in, make a momentary impact, and then leave just as sneakily. Some thoughts seem to come out of the blue and tend to bring a line of thoughts with them, all connected and related but maybe not in order yet.
The other day I decided to start cleaning out my room a bit (mainly because the kids refused to do it for me) and it led to a number of thoughts, including trying to figure out a way to get the cost of a cleaning service to work in my current budget. While the cleaning service is a very real thought that bounces through my head on a regular basis, the thought that really hit me that day was a thought about memories.
As I was cleaning my room I came across a stack of various birthday, anniversary, etc cards. Admittedly, my first instinct was to put them away somewhere without looking at them; I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that emotional hit. I compromised and read some of them, really as many as I could.
There was an anniversary card where Teresa talked about all the things she loved about our family and how happy she was that we got to spend the rest of our lives together. She talked about how I helped her relax and how she appreciated the different plans I made for us. I remember that on our last anniversary together, our 19th, I forgot to sign the card I bought for her. I also remember that, a few days before, on what would end up being our last date, we went out to dinner at an Italian place called deCarli’s in downtown Beaverton. We had a nice meal and had some nice drinks. We talked about how we should start going out more often now that Burke was old enough to watch Fritz. We then went to a new wine shop that I really wanted to check out and had a couple of nice glasses of wine; we had the whole place to ourselves and were given samples of food and wine by the very generous owners; it was a great date.
It was our last date.
What were Teresa’s memories about that date? About me not signing her anniversary card? Did she enjoy the date? Was it fun for her? Was she disappointed about the card? Did she understand?
On the more significant anniversaries, I tried to make them more special by going someplace, just the two of us. For our 10th anniversary we went to Hawaii and had a great time visiting my sister and spending a few days at a hotel by the beach; just the two of us. On our 15th anniversary we went to New Orleans for a week. We stayed in the French Quarter for a few days and soaked in the craziness that is Bourbon St. We then went to the Garden District and stayed in a B&B for the remainder of the trip, with the highlight being a seven-course vegetarian dinner (with the wine pairing of course!). These were both amazing trips and I enjoyed every minute of them with her. Sometimes, however, I think the earlier anniversaries were even better. They weren’t nearly as epic or exciting but there was just something extraordinary about spending the day with her going to a local Italian restaurant in Scottsdale, AZ (with a coupon from the entertainment book no less!) and enjoying every minute of the extravagance of the meal! We were young. Life was good. Life was easy. My life was her.
How did Teresa feel? Did she like the big trips better? Or did she like the simplicity of the early anniversaries? Was there something entirely different that she would have preferred but didn’t say, and I didn’t think to ask?
There were Mother’s Day cards from me to her. From the kids to her. I told Teresa how great of a mother she was and how lucky the kids and I were to have her in our lives and how thankful we were that she not only put with us but also seemed to love us as well. The kids also told her how much they loved her; how happy they were to have her as their mom. I remember her first Mother’s Day. I bought her flowers. I remember her last Mother’s Day, we all went to a Mexican restaurant. The food was really good and the margaritas were as well. Teresa seemed to have fun and we talked about going there again sometime soon.
Did she feel as appreciated as much as we did, in fact, appreciate her? Did she know how great of a mom she was? What were her best memories as a mom? What did she like most about being a mom? Which Mother’s Day did she like best?
Birthday cards were also in the stack. Some from her to me. Some from me to her. The last birthday card she bought for me she didn’t have time to sign. The last birthday card I bought for her is also unsigned. It’s in my laptop bag. I put it there the day before so that I could sign it at work after I finished up payroll. I was going to give it to her when I got home. Hopefully with a gift that I managed to get on the way. I remember the first birthday that her and I were together. It was a great day because it was her birthday and without her being born my life would not have been anywhere near as great as it has been. I also remember there was a twinge of sadness as one of my boyhood hero’s, Walter Payton, died that day. I remember that we celebrated her birthday with her family a few days later. I knew nothing about wrapping presents and so I wrapped everything all together which, when she ripped open, had something like a piñata effect. The Bears also won that day as Green Bay missed a last second field goal that all Bears fans are certain Payton had a say in.
I remember Teresa’s last birthday. Her and the kids had the day off from school so I slept in a bit. I showered and came downstairs. I said Happy Birthday to her and asked her if she wanted to go out to dinner that night. She said maybe, Burke has karate!, or maybe we could go the next day. She said that she was tired, she woke up at 5:30, but seemed to be fine. She opened up a gift from a life-long friend of hers, and was happy to see that it was a book (she had also sent a book to said friend for her birthday).
I gave her a kiss.
I told her I loved her.
She said the same.
I remember listening to a sports show that morning. One of the guys on the show was talking about how his hero, Walter Payton, died this day 20 years ago. I had forgotten that. An even bigger hero of mine ended up dying that day as well. It’s a day that I will always celebrate and mourn.
What was Teresa’s favorite birthday? Was there one that always stood out in particular? Did she remember that first birthday that we celebrated together with the piniata-like birthday gift I gave her?
That last birthday card unsigned.
That last anniversary card unsigned.
Memories are tricky. Sort of like cleaning a room. It would be great if we could hire someone to sort out the memories that we should keep and the memories we should discard. Either way it wouldn’t be in my budget right now.
I need to remember the good with the bad. I need to feel the regret. I need to clean my room and then, maybe, I can afford to let someone in and help.
For now I’ll mourn the loss of Teresa’s memories along with her companionship. I’ll wonder what memories she took with her. I’ll wonder why she isn’t still here.
I’ll wonder as I continue to clean my room.

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