One Year Later
It’s been a year now.
I just reread the essay I wrote six months in — I hadn’t read it again since I posted it.
Six months ago today, in the wee hours of the morning, my mother took her last breath.
What can I add now? It’s all still true. But more time has passed; the raw edges are a bit less raw. I don’t keep getting startled by her absence, the “missing step” of wanting to tell her something and forgetting I can’t. I haven’t had a dream about her in quite a while.
Yesterday was weirder than today, I think; the anticipation of “anniversary syndrome” was worse than the reality. Today, I talked to my brother, and to my stepdad.
We’re all doing fine.
We all still miss her.
I wish she could have visited this house. We moved here before she died, but it’s a long ways to come — a flight and a drive and a ferry and more driving — and she was already sick, although we didn’t know the cancer was going to be terminal. We were all still living in the universe where there was going to be chemo, and surgery, and some complicated and annoying recovery from those things; but she was going to recover, and she and Stepdad were going to resume their lives, with all their travel and adventures, including coming to see our new home.
That’s not what happened.
She would have liked this house, I think, and the lovely clawfoot tub in the guest bathroom (she was a bath person, not a shower person). She would have thought the grounds were pretty, if a bit rural. She would not have liked — she did not like — how far away this is from where she lived. We talked on the phone every Saturday morning at eleven. She didn’t mention the distance every time.
I do sometimes get mad at people who still have moms. I mean, not at them specifically; I get mad at the fact of them having moms, moms who are older than mine was and yet are still here. That just seems pretty unfair, doesn’t it?
Okay so I have not yet achieved perfect grace.
(And I have dear friends who lost parents — one or both — far younger than I did. I acknowledge that none of this is logical. It’s why they call them emotions, I guess.)
I’m thinking today about Friday the 13th, three hundred and sixty-five days ago. What an odd, out-of-reality day that was. The neighbor who read my stepdad’s middle-of-the-night Facebook post and went to his kitchen and whipped up a quiche and brought it by, so we would have breakfast. The friends and relatives who came by, so many people, I don’t even remember who all was there. The sober, suited men from the mortuary (it was such a hot day, weren’t they boiling in those suits?). I drifted from room to room, wanting to talk to people and wanting them all to go away. There was nothing really for me to do anymore. Mom didn’t need any more help getting up and down, didn’t need any ice cream or pudding or water or kleenex brought to her, didn’t need us keeping track of her meds.
It had been such an intimate time. Helping someone who is dying is a powerful experience. I can’t describe it. I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but it’s also…there must be some commonalities there. Whole books have been written about it, after all. I even read a few.
Books are nothing like actually being there.
Anyway. I think what I’m trying to say is that, suddenly the house was full of people, and none of them were my mom, even though her body was still there.
Does that make sense?
My stepdad is dating again. Perhaps someday there will be a stepmom — or is there a different term for your widowed stepdad’s next wife? There should be; I already have a beloved stepmom. The hypothetical new lady, we’ll need to call her something else.
(This is what I do, see: make order of complicated emotional things by organizing them. Sorting and naming and tidying it all up.)
(It’s what Mom would have done.)
I am my mother’s daughter. I’m a planner, and I handle the finances, and I have systems and lists and spreadsheets and procedures.
As if being organized can keep the boogeyman away.
As if all her records and checklists and notes kept cancer away.
I miss you, Mom.