Playing the Song Backwards: A 7-Year Itch, of Sorts


If marriages experience a seven-year itch, can grief and loss have a seven-year itch too? This week is the 7th anniversary of my mom’s passing, and it’s sort of doing a number on me emotionally. Anniversaries like this don’t make me nearly as sad as they used to, but this week I’m feeling a bit more melancholy than the past few August 25ths.

Seven years ago, my life was like living a country-western song, so many crazy things happened that year. It was seven years ago today that I became parentless. I was a “born-again orphan, and that was only the beginning… In August of 2004, we said goodbye to Mom, and laid her to rest, and she was finally reunited with my dad, 22 years after his passing. But that was not the only verse.

At the beginning of 2004, my “year of the country song”, Mom started to get really sick. As her health rapidly declined, her (second) husband of 20+ years, my step-dad, who was already ill, then got sicker. He died in the late spring of 2004. Then Mom died about 8 weeks later. It’s too bad there are no Groupons or BOGOs for funerals.

Within the following months, I got laid off from my job. Then my dog died, at the vet, from what was supposed to be a routine teeth cleaning. Our house was on the market, and sold within a month, so we were now homeless, as our new house wouldn’t be complete for about six months. We moved into my sister’s basement. We had to hire lawyers to battle my uncle (Mom’s brother) over her estate. We no longer speak to him or his children. We sold off Mom’s house and many of her possessions.

It was an interesting year, to say the least. After losing my dog, my mom, my step-dad, my job, my uncle and cousins, and temporarily my home, I decided that 2004 was the year of the country song. I know many people who feel this way, at some point in their lives, for various reasons, not always due to the loss of a parent. Once one really bad thing happens, several more seem to follow, like waves of dominoes toppling each other over and over. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job, any significant loss or trauma often sends shock waves through your entire life, and everyone in it.

If you’re a fan of country music, or even if you hate country music but like to make fun of it, you may have heard what happens if you play a country song backwards:

You get your dog back, your spouse back, your job back, your house back, and you get out of jail!  Maybe there was hope for me too! (For the record, I wasn’t ever in jail, but I definitely needed rescuing from this trying period in my life!) 

While it wasn’t as easy as playing a song backwards, I pressed on to try to reverse my Year of the Country Song.

I got a new, better job. As a bonus, the company that had laid me off and made me jobless then completely closed down and ceased to exist… poetic justice!

We even got another dog. While I wouldn’t ever dare say that our new dog is “better than” the dearly departed dog Bailey, I can say that our replacement dog, a pomeranian named Rocky Road, definitely gets along better with our other dog Ella J. the schnauzer, than our first pomeranian did, so that’s a good thing I guess.

We moved into our new house, so we were no longer homeless. 

But, one thing I couldn’t ever fix, replace, or approximate, was mom. Seven years later, I’m still parentless.

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.” -Unknown

That’s great, and true, to an extent. While time is healing all wounds, however, it fades memories too. Maybe that is, in fact, how time works so well to heal grief, by wiping away the memories that make you hurt so much. Seven years is a long time. Memories dissolve. Life moves forward, even after you’re left behind. 28 seasons have turned. I haven’t seen my mom, heard her laugh, or seen that mischievous twinkle in her eye for seven years. I’ve forgotten things about her, things she said, things we did together, time we spent together, that I never thought I’d ever forget.

Fortunately, as some of the memories fade, regret and resentment fade too.

Resentment, because my mother didn’t even try or want to take better care of herself, to stick around for her four children who had already been without a father for so long, and for her seven grandchildren who never knew him, and now would barely know her. Regret, because I wasn’t there with her when she died. You can’t ever get back that moment in time when someone leaves the earth forever and life slips away.

Mom could have lived much longer, had she chosen life. One of my nieces is getting married this week. Mom, of all people, should be here to be a part of it. She loved weddings. But, I guess she was just tired. She’d buried two husbands, the second of whom was very ill for years before he passed. She even had sold her bridal boutique over to my sister. She’d married off four children who’d produced 7 grandchildren. She wanted to go on her own terms, at the “right age” for her, and I guess she did, in a way.


“Although it’s difficult today to see beyond the sorrow, may looking back in memory help comfort you tomorrow.” –Unknown

On this week of the 7th anniversary of Mom’s death, I feel as though her spirit may be stirring things up around here just to make sure we don’t forget about her.

It’s appropriate that there’s a big wedding in the family this week. Mom would be so excited about it and proud, even if she may have not expressed it easily. I know she will be at the wedding in some way.

And, the house Mom and Dad had built and lived in for more than 40 years is on the market, for the first time since my siblings and I sold the house off in the process of settling her estate. When we sold the house, we held out and spared it from being torn down by a developer who wanted to replace it with a McMansion like 80% of the other lots on the street. We didn’t want our house to be completely destroyed forever.

Today, the house, now updated, gutted, and completely renovated, is for sale again. It doesn’t look anything like it did when we sold it seven years ago, but it’s somehow comforting that it’s still standing. It’s one memory that can’t completely fade. I can drive by, and see the house there, where over 40 years of family memories were made. The couple who bought the house from us in 2004 are moving following a recent divorce. Perhaps it was their 7-year itch too.


In conclusion, although my mom’s beverage of choice was a Manhattan on the rocks, not a martini as stated below, this quote pretty much sums up her attitude on life, which ended seven years ago. I don’t know who wrote it, I’ve seen it attributed to multiple sources, including a greeting card, but it’s still the perfect quote for her!

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, martini in one hand, chocolate in the other – body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO, What a Ride!”








5 responses to “Playing the Song Backwards: A 7-Year Itch, of Sorts

  1. What a touching, compelling story. I lost my mom three years ago and it feels like yesterday. You have put a totally new perspective on living life without a parent(s). You’re all right, Andrea, really all right. Isn’t that good to know? You probably never thought things would be all right again after losing first your dad and then your mom. But they are, aren’t they? They really are. And it shows. I’m in awe of you.

  2. Hi, Andrea. I lost my mother when I was young and when my dad died, I remember thinking that I was no longer anyone’s little girl. Despite husband, family and friends, it was a powerfully daunting feeling. The memories do fade, but every now and then something will trigger one and the thoughts come flooding back. If nothing else, it makes me realize how short life really is. One of my favorite quotes is from Robert Anderson’s I Never Sang for My Father, “Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship, which struggles on in the survivor’s mind toward some resolution which it may never find.” We may never make sense of things, but at least we’re living the life examined.

  3. Barb – thanks so much for your encouragement and kind words – they mean more than you know. I’m sorry about your loss too. My favorite thing about having started this little blog is the stories and perspectives people have shared here. I hope for many more, and I hope they’ve helped others as much as they’ve helped me.Marie – that is a great quote, thanks for sharing it! It’s so true. I really appreciate your insight, as you’ve been there too and know that strange feeling of being parent-less…

  4. I lost my dad in my 30s and not a day goes by that I don’t remember something about him. Mom is 76 now, so I know it’s just a matter of time. So I hope I can make the most of the time we have left. Life is short. Love all your quotes, especially the last one.

  5. Lisa, thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I’m sorry about the loss of your dad. You are fortunate you had him for 30+ yrs, and you are blessed to have your mom. Enjoy your precious time with her! I’m glad you liked the quotes too. I collect them, and love to share them for comfort and inspiration!

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