How Long Is Three Years?

by Tina Drakakis
Originally Published: 
A brunette woman in a white and red striped bikini next to a baby in a green-white bathing suit sitt...

Image via Shutterstock

I lost my mom three years ago today and began marking the anniversary of her passing with some reflections about passing – time passing, that is. Most people don’t notice time passing in any given day but Moms certainly do.

Moms get it. We get it when we look down at our 8th graders and see hairy man legs. Even though we’ve seen that gangly leg a zillion times it still halts our heartbeat for a second when we, you know, really see it.

We notice time passing when our 10th graders start sporting sideburns and facial hair and we realize we never even saw it coming. One day it’s just, well, there. When did that start? We wonder. Geeze, we’d focused so intently on the deepening voice …

When the summer days start getting shorter moms become aware of time when our college coeds start gathering their things again. Already? Really? We watched them whizzing around for a few weeks, burning the candle at both ends (a mirror image of ourselves so many years ago) and then poof, they’re gone again.

We moms also give a knowing nod to the slow passage of time when our oldest children – kinda sorta adults in the making — start paving their own paths through life with or without our gentle suggestions. Having to watch mistakes being made — then figured out — oddly enough causes time to stall a bit (insert nervous laughter from parents living with young adults).

It’s pretty easy to see how moms become acutely aware of time.

This past weekend a big group of friends and I took a ferry over to Provincetown and spent a spectacular summer day carousing in the sunshine (and, okay, perhaps a few bars, too). It was a stunning day yet I had tiny moments of sadness throughout it because it dawned on me: the last time we all did this together was exactly three years ago. I know this so well because it was the one lone day of fun I experienced that summer before spiraling down the heinous rabbit hole that was my mom’s cancer.

I used to phone her on the weekends to catch up, telling her all about the kids’ games or what I bought on sale that afternoon or any frolicking I’d done with my zany friends. Sometimes I’d just pour a glass of wine and shoot the shit with her. She’d always turn down the volume on the Law and Order episode in the background and listen happily as I went on and on, blissfully content in the animated updates of my life with her beloved grandkids

That last ferry outing is seared into my memory because when I phoned her that evening to tell her all about it, for the very first time she was unable to keep up her end of our conversation. She was frail and whispering and I remember hanging up and sobbing. I knew: she was fading away from me. Our special phone thing was never going to happen again. Within days I was back with her in New York, where I didn’t leave until her horrific ordeal was over, just weeks later.

I remember every moment of our final phone conversation.

156 weeks have flashed by and still my maternal awareness of time flares at the most unexpected times.

Today, the dynamic of my family is dramatically different than it used to be three years ago. Now a household of teenagers and young adults, it is, if I’m being honest, a much lonelier place for me. Mind you, it’s not a sad place – quite the contrary – it’s busier than ever and full of laughs (ahem, hilarious at times) and as chaotic as any other family of six usually is. But as Dorothy Gale once said, “People come and go so quickly around here.” That tends to happen in a household of primarily self-sufficient bodies. Work schedules, college distance, school events, social commitments, you name it. Family dinners are a rare occurrence now and more often than not there are nowhere near six people under the roof at any given time.

Everyone’s so busy they’re hardly ever here anymore.

So sometimes it just gets a little lonely when I remember about that pesky – and fleeting – time thing.

It makes me appreciate car rides. And conversations. And calendar pages with few markings on them.

And it makes me feel wickedly sneaky frying bacon for the sole purpose of waking teenage boys out of weekend slumbers.

And it makes me acutely aware that small moments are very, very good.

And — without question — it makes me vow that forever … if I happen to get a phone call from one of my loves that is afar … I will turn down the volume of Law & Order and listen up.

And be very, very happy.

Just the way my mom was.

This article was originally published on