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Jun 14, 2012

The Encounter

Today is the day on the calendar that I dread most every year. It’s an anniversary that still brings tears and anger. 
     Yes I am bitter about it; she was only 59 years old dammit, and that makes me sad beyond words.  I feel robbed; my kids have been cheated and my grandbaby has been deprived of knowing the amazing woman that is her heritage. But I know that life’s not fair and shit happens and only the good die young and you never promised me a rose garden…and all of that.
     And each year this day comes and goes but the pain in my heart lingers on. But this year I had a chance encounter that seemed like a gift. It was six months ago and I’ve clung to the memory of it since then, like some sort of life raft.     
     This is that story.

It was January and we were in Frederiksted, St. Croix, and it happened like this:

“Tammi, that woman looks just like your mother,” The Big Guy said to me. Since he has, on occasion been known to think that a Harley T-shirt resembles acceptable dinner attire at a nice restaurant, I humored him by looking in the general direction that he was pointing.
      Not only did I feel my jaw hit the hot pavement, but I suddenly couldn’t get my breath. While I was blinking at the speed of light I lost her in the crowd of hundreds that had gathered in the park for a Blues Festival.

Big and I couldn’t speak. All the words had been sucked out of us, like she were some kind of spectacular tornado that passed by and had taken all of our insides but left our vacant shells standing. Silent, we just shook our heads in disbelief.  I mean, she didn’t just kind of look like my mother; she looked EXACTLY LIKE MY MOTHER!   

My tough-biker-sailor-trucker-visibly-shaken-up-Big Guy finally attempted to make a move in the direction of the dive shop while I stood like a statute with a dumb and/or dumbfounded look on my face. 
    Then lightening struck twice, unearthing me as I saw her walking directly towards me. 

With disbelief and shock leading the way like a couple of old gumshoe detectives, I walked directly up to her, presenting myself like I was carrying a badge or something. I stopped in front of her and removed my sunglasses. I tried to ignore the tears that I could already feel streaking down my cheeks and then I heard myself say the most absurd thing. 
“Excuse me ma’am,” I said, “but can I just look at you for a moment?” She hesitated for a second, I presumed to make sure I wasn’t armed and dangerous.
     "You are so beautiful and you look just like my mother,” I blurted out.
     Of coarse she was taken aback, who wouldn’t be, but rather than call for security she smiled my mother’s smile and politely thanked me. Then I broke the rest of the news. “I haven’t seen her in more than ten years,” I said.
     By this point I’m pretty sure I resembled a psych patient off her meds because not only did I have a death grip on her arm, but I was shaking and blubbering like someone had just kidnapped my first born. I finally pulled it together long enough to mumble an apology for accosting her.
     It had been 10 years. 10 years, 7 months and 11 days…to be exact and everyday I think about her. Seeing her again hadn’t even occurred to me for…well…hopefully not for a really long time — if you get my drift.

Since my composure was completely shot and pretty much pooling at my feet, she graciously picked it up, dusted it off and took my hand in hers and asked my mother’s name. I could hardly say it and I could barely look at her, yet I couldn’t stop looking at her. I apologized again and thanked her and told her how pretty she was and then I excused myself to go feel like an idiot all alone in the huge crowd. Our entire exchange lasted less than 60 seconds.

In these past eleven years I have caught fleeting glimpses of my mother. Sometimes it has been in my own rear view mirror. Occasionally it has been as I’ve rushed into a store only to realize it’s my own reflection. I thought I once saw her in a Subaru, when my sister drove off and she turned to wave goodbye. Those are all cruel reminders that she is really gone. 
     This was different. 
     This was a moment when time stood still and she seemed real again. 
     This—this was a gift. A beautiful gift with a halo of red hair.

I still miss you mom.   

Sunset over St. Croix, January 2012


  1. Right there by your side Tammi. (hugs)
    Shelly D.

    1. Thanks Shelly, I know you've been there too.

  2. Beautiful! Not just 'another beautiful day in Paradise'! :) When you aren't really looking, you will see her everywhere! I know my Mom is with me so much more than I realize and see her and reflections of her in so many ways every day! I believe they watch over us and give us occasional glimpses just to help us keep the faith! Hugs to you Girlfriend!

    1. I hear ya Risa, keep the faith indeed! Hugs back at ya!