eucalyptus for my mom

My mom has always kept eucalyptus in her home. It would be tucked in ceramic vases, strewn over the fireplace mantle, or placed front and center on the table. The earthy smell, the delicate crunch of fallen leaves, and the deep colors will always make me think of my mom.

My mom who has the heart of a hippie and the background of a proper school girl. A girl who knew all the place settings and insisted on serving dishes with fancy spoons, but also burned incense and wore tie-dye dresses. My mom who was adopted, who never really felt like she fit in. My mom who struggled with a learning disability only to run the gifted education program in my hometown. My mom who taught me that being a feminist is a privilege and nothing to joke about. My mom who insisted I follow my dreams and reach for the stars. My mom who sacrificed and worked hard so that each of her children could become who they deserved to be.

But let me also tell you a secret I have been keeping for just about two years now. A secret that has nothing to do with my mom, and yet has everything to do with her at the same time. My father was first diagnosed with early onset dementia about two years ago. It has progressed so rapidly over the year that it has now been diagnosed as Alzheimer's. I have been trying to process what this means for my dad, what this means for my family, what this means for my mom, what this means for my children as they lose the opportunity to know their grandfather. All of that is so hard to process and I am not completely ready to disclose how I feel.

And for my mom - what she must be thinking, what she must be feeling, and what she must be going through on a daily basis to prepare, to understand, and to grieve the loss of her husband while he still sits right next to her. It is painful and unfair and so hard for me to be this far away, while my family struggles to survive.

Matilda and I were at the local flower shop and as I decided what I needed to purchase for a work project, Matilda ran around the shop like a three-year-old tends to. She rounded the corner with this big bundle of eucalyptus in hand with the goofiest smile on her face. And I crumbled. I held her in my arms and cried, holding onto my girl, with the smell of my mom squished between us. I am far away, but I hope my mom feels the love we send everyday.

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