As a kid, I was afraid of drowning in quicksand.
I mean, I saw it on Gilligan’s Island, The Incredible Hulk, and Land of the Lost. How could I not be afraid? Once you stepped in it, you were pretty much a goner unless you got angry enough to transform into the Hulk, or The Professor thought of a speedy scholarly plan to free you in the nick of time.
Quicksand, it seemed, was everywhere, ready to consume me in its unrelenting, gooey grip.
During my formative years, I was on the lookout for tree branches and strong roots I could grab in case I inadvertently stepped into my demise. I scanned for quicksand in the field behind our Weston Village apartment, at the edges of the kickball diamond at St. Michael’s, in the cornfields by Eli Lilly. I thought about sending my friends before me to test the solidity of the land. (I was kind of an asshole as a kid.) But it was terrifying to consider slowly being sucked into your death while you still had time to panic and cry and lament.
Quicksand doesn’t really play a part in my adult life. I know now that you can’t drown in it (unless, perhaps you’re a really bad swimmer), and I still don’t want to encounter it, but there are scarier things to consider now that I’m grown. Things like my kids driving cars and the wrinkles in my neck and serial killers who are still on the lam and medical bills that are far bigger than my checking account balance and being eaten by a shark that looked a lot like a dolphin.
But I haven’t forgotten my fear of quicksand and the existential dread of it being the cause of my untimely demise.
I experienced that feeling head-on at a Walgreens last week while I was walking through the card aisle on my way to the pharmacy. I noticed all the greeting cards to my left were marked as cards deemed for “Mom/Mother,” and I instantly found myself on unsteady ground, gasping for air, unable to move.
This was a grief reality I had not considered: I would never again have the need to buy a “Mom/Mother” card.
Not to tell her how thankful I am for her this month or how merry a Christmas I wish her in December or to help her celebrate her birthday with Elvis in January. Not for Easter or Mother’s Day or just because.
A remaining lifetime of no cards.
A remaining lifetime of no Mom.
I feel a bit like an orphan with Bob living his best life in Florida and my dad… well, he’s never really been around. I am the matriarch of my crew now, and it’s a shoe that doesn’t quite fit, hasn’t yet been broken in. I have blisters. Blisters on top of blisters.
And my mom. Oh, my mom. My beautiful, exasperating, witty, wild mom. My biggest fan. My world. My beginning and my middle. Her end.
I loved buying greeting cards for Mom. From the overly sappy to the offensively funny, Mom loved receiving cards. She laughed and cried and remembered and appreciated her favorites. She especially loved one from Uncle Jimmy about her having a big butt. He laughed so hard he cried when he gave it to her. She laughed so hard she cried every time she told the story.
But there are no more cards to buy for her, and this is something I hadn’t thought about until the Walgreens card aisle body slammed me. I was already trying to prepare for the first series of holidays without her: Thanksgiving, Christmas, her birthday.
I didn’t know cards would be my quicksand.
Now I understand why I was always so afraid. There is a Mom-sized hole in my life, the one with the slippery edges and the deep abyss. I have to be careful not to get too close because the pull is great.
And there is no one to save me but me.