It is obvious to everyone, as it was to me, that the death of my mother would bring many physical changes, such as giving away her clothes and her absence, as well as psychological changes, such as the sadness, depression, and sense of loss.
What I didn’t realize, and I think most don’t, is that the death of a parent specifically also brings another change: A change in speech.
I actually noticed this change before my mom died; It started when she was admitted to the hospice. At the time, the change in speech felt very awkward.
Was I going to my dad’s house, or my parents’? On the one hand my mother was still alive. On the other, she was no longer at home.
Did I have a parent or parents? If a parent is not able to talk to you or give you advice, are they still actively a parent?
Should I have said “his” or “theirs?” My mom was no longer living there, but she was a part of the apartment. She designed it. It’s her furniture, her look, her history. Saying “his” sounds like my mother was being deleted from the conversation, but saying “theirs” sounds irrational since she was no longer there. It no longer had her smell, so is it still her apartment? Was calling it “his” apartment being disrespectful to all the years that she was there?
Should I have spoken of my mom in the past tense or should I have remained in the present? There was no more present. The only “present” we had left was the wait. A mother who barely opened her eyes, didn’t know who we were, and didn’t understand what was going on around her. “My mom likes Fitness cereal.” Does she like Fitness cereal, or did she like it? Which speech pattern is more incorrect?
It doesn’t actually matter which tense you use, or if you use the plural or singular form, because either way it would bring you down. If you say “they” you think you should say “him.” If you say “him” you think you should say “them.”
I still have the same speech pattern issues now. It’s easier, because she is, in fact, gone. But it doesn’t make the speech changes any easier.
Do I do my laundry at my dad’s or at my parents’?
Am I going to my dad’s for dinner or my parents’?
Do my grandparents live a floor above my dad or above my parents?
Sometimes I momentarily forget. It’s not like you can do a Find-Replace in your head. I am going to Barcelona with The Boy next month, and once we had the tickets, he said he would research online and I told him, “Great! And I’ll talk to my mother, she knows where we should go.”
We heard crickets.
At least I don’t have to worry about deciding if I should talk about her in the past or present.