Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Today begins the ending of a count down that started beating in my chest last August 13 when my Mom died. It counts out time and milestones in heartbeats, each sputter or acceleration beating out in the sound of a broken heart; too fast, too slow, too broken, something missing. I find myself with that feeling that comes with plugged ears; you can hear, but everything is distorted, unreal. Every month, every week, every day, every milestone, every holiday and every birthday has been a “first.” My family has gotten through each one, all suffering and grieving in our own ways; alone and together. For me, every time a month begins I think, “This is the first May of my existence without my Mom” and it just washes over me in a wholly debilitating flood of emotion that feels like it will take me under and not let me back up, and yet, each time, I re-surface. Battered and bloody, but surviving, I’m like my Mom that way. If my broken, bloody heart beats were a word, they would say "without."

Her birthday was in November. We wrote notes to her on big, fat Mylar balloon hearts and released them into the sky. It felt really, really good. On March 7 I began my first year as a motherless daughter; difficult for two reasons, one legitimate and one seemingly superficial. Legitimate because I can’t believe I’m still here when the person responsible for bringing me into the world and keeping me here is not. Superficial because I was struck with the knowledge on my birthday that I will never, ever get a really good present that I want and would never buy for myself again. Ever. My Mom was the best gift giver, period, I can't count the number of material things that she gave me that made me weep . When you are a mom, you know what your kids’ birthday means to you, it’s not about cake and presents. It’s about the realization that a person exists who you would literally throw yourself in front of a train for. It is the losing of yourself in another person which eventually evolves into growing wholly into yourself; your true self. My lack of good gifts is ridiculous on the surface but symbolizes something true and, for me, really hard to move past; your parents are the only people who love you beyond anything else. They are the only people whose main purpose is to put your well being before anyone else’s. They love you more than themselves, more than each other, more than any thing. I started out down one parent from the get go, it seems to make this loss more somehow, more without.

Last month was the last milestone before the one year mark; Aidan’s birthday. My feelings for my mom are really complex and somehow very tied to Aidan and his birth. There are so many things about parenting that you don’t know until you are one. Ways that you think your parents were wrong, or somehow knew less than you did. For me, a lot of that died when Aidan was born. And then new offences were born, ruminated over and disappeared with my Mom. Wow, I really wish someone would have explained to me how immediately all of the bad stuff disappears and how much good stuff you're left with.  I feel like I would have wasted much less time being mad at her.  I’m totally sure that everyone’s experience of losing a parent is different. What I can tell you about myself and my brother and our relationship with our Mom is that our mom was complex; she was often hard to deal with, sometimes selfish, many times a know it all and way too involved in the day to day aspects of both of our lives. Neither one of us would take back one single, solitary moment.  I can also tell you that both of us would consider a variety of illegal activities for 10 minutes of our worst moments with her. And, I think we are lucky. Neither of us feels like anything was left unsaid with our Mom; the force of my Mom’s personality did not allow for unsaid anything. And yet, I’d trade a lot of things for one of those ridiculous conversations during which she would manage to make everything inside of me clench into a tiny, frustrated ball of fury and my eyes roll back dangerously far into my brain. If you are lucky enough to still have your Mom, do me a favor; finish reading this post and then pick up the phone and tell your mom that she’s really important. Tell her that you listen when she’s talking and even when you disagree, you see the value of her opinion. Tell her that you know that someday she won’t be around to get annoyed with and you hope that day is many, many years away. Tell her that you love her.

Today is August 1. That means there are only 12 more days left of accelerating and sputtering drum beats in my chest counting out the firsts, the days that my mom hasn’t not existed in the flesh. And then….then, the next 365 days begin, without. It’s the strangest concept, it’s a year later and I just can’t seem to wrap my brain around it, I just can't get used to the feeling of without.


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