Paperwork: If I could go back in time, I would ask more about the how and the why

My calendar is full of notables.

Birthdays, anniversaries, surgeries, the Plainfield tornado that wiped out my sister’s house (with no injuries), the day I started as an editor and the day I retired. Stuff like that.

My warped, blue datebook that I’ve kept since 1980, has become a book of history. Many recurring events also are on my cellphone now, with alerts set up to remind me.

More and more of those reminders have become wells drilled deep into my lifetime full of memories, such as the simple message that popped up on Monday: “Mom’s birthday.”

Mom passed Feb. 21, 2018, six months short of turning 90. Another date with details I carefully noted in my blue book.

I didn’t really need the alert this week, but I keep it on my calendar. There will be no birthday party.

Still, Aug. 22, was a perfect day to remember her – what I had and what I have lost. (Like so many other dates on my calendar now.)

“Today is Mom’s birthday. I miss her,” texted my sister.

Her few words spoke volumes. ... of decades when we could count on her being there. I started drawing from that well of memories.

I thought about Turtles (one of her favorite candies), strawberry shakes and French toast.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with memories that make us laugh or tear up. Or regret.

My sister and I are not alone with lingering grief. You know what I mean. We all wish we could talk again with loved ones or friends – even for a moment.

I’ve come to see the irony of my desire to talk with Mom again. Even on random days on my calendar I find myself wondering about my past, then think, “If Mom were here, I could ask her. I wish I had.”

I have so many questions I never asked her. And, funny thing, I can’t think of a single one right now that is pressing. Isn’t that the way it is though? How many times together were things left unsaid, questions set aside?

Maybe she told me when I was a lot younger about things I wonder about now. But I have forgotten.

I recall the stories told and retold. (I tattled on my sister when she was eating dirt or her favorite, ashes. We were both very young.)

It’s not like I never had serious talks with Mom – or Dad. There were some, especially in their final days. But why didn’t I dig deeper?

I made a living interviewing people and reporting their stories. I regret not doing more of that with my own family, my parents especially.

I could tell their story, I guess. They did this. Then that. But I didn’t drill enough into the why and how.

My story is a big part of their story. I should have recorded every detail. I must rely on documents and memory now.

Regrets aside, this week I did what many do. I talked to the photo nearby.

Mom is smiling, leaning against Dad, their heads together. He’s smiling, too.

“Happy birthday Mom. And hey Dad. Miss ya both.”

Lonny Cain, retired managing editor of The Times in Ottawa, also was a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet in the 1970s. His Paperwork email is Or mail The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.