Tag Archives: mom

Year Four

4 Oct

One of the weird things I think about constantly is that October 4th used to just be a normal day for me. I lived for 27 years before October 4th was anything I thought about other than to write it on a check or a school paper that happened to be penned on that day. After four years with my mother gone it shocks me how terrified I still get counting down in late September to a day I have no control over.

It’s still just a day; maybe that is the worst part. For the last three years I have worked my schedule to get this day off work so I could find a safe place to be; a place where tears on a hairline trigger weren’t going to be out of place. This morning I went back to my posts from Day One and Year One and was struck by how everything below the surface feels exactly the same and yet I have become an entirely different person all around my grief.

It’s less scary. The sadness feels more purely like sadness now, without the anxiety of how I will get through a moment with her gone. I have gotten through thousands of moments without her now, not because I knew I could but just because I had to. The world doesn’t stop for grief, it barrels forward and at times I have gotten clipped by it when I wasn’t ready for that.

What has changed the most in four years is that I have found myself becoming more and more like her than I think I ever would have if she had been around. It was as if I subconsciously filled in the spaces where I so desperately needed her by doing what she would have done or trying to figure out what she would have said. I look for ways to be her so it feels more like she exists. Everything is for her and it always will be, but that has evolved naturally into doing things for myself too.

In four years I have figured out how to pay bills without her calling me to remind me. I have found a home in great friends and local theatre which I have never stopped being a part of. I find her in theatre every minute I am there and I still see her sweet loving face in the front row like I am six years old again in The Sound of Music singing “the sun has gone to bed and so must I”. I have found a relationship that lets me be independent and strong and I have learned how to not need a man but to simply be with one because I love him. I bought a three family house by myself and navigate being a landlord based largely on what I remember learning from her. I have found a career path in a field I love with a company I feel lucky to be a part of. I am closer with my aunt who steps in as one of my mommy stand ins when I need to talk to a mom.

I see in myself a woman who has a long way to go but I feel proud for maybe the first time ever that I got here with her lessons but not her.

She is still the person I want to talk to the most.

To my mother: You not being here is like living in a strange, dangerous place all alone. Your energy is everywhere and nowhere and I am constantly chasing you. I want to tell you that I miss you every minute because you were extraordinary. You were more than just my mother. You were vibrant and talented and kind and funny and brilliant and passionate and warm and all the things most women spend a lifetime striving to be just one of. Your big red hair and your beautiful smile are missing and I surround myself with photos of you so I can see them. You never gave yourself the credit of knowing how important you were to everyone.

I am terrified more today than ever before that my life moving forward will mean that you are further away.

You never said goodbye to me. I found out after you died that you had given moments to certain people where you said goodbye in your way. I was hurt for a while thinking you hadn’t had a moment like that with me. I was so convinced you would live that I was left paralyzed when you didn’t. Andy once told me that you had pushed me away those final weeks because I was someone you didn’t know how to say goodbye to. Maybe you knew I still needed you, or maybe you knew that you were my best friend. We had spent most of the previous 5 years with each other and you were the most important person in my world. Either way it’s ok that we didn’t have that moment. You left it so that all of our moments exist in a bubble of you living. I still sit in coffee shops and wish we could talk for 8 hours, I walk through cemeteries and talk to you. I pay my car insurance and say, “look mom, I did a thing”.

I try to love like you did and work like you did and sing like you did and cry like you did. I want to do everything with gusto and passion like you. So I will love like love is the only thing worth feeling. I will work like doing my best can always be bigger and my job is an extension of my soul. I will sing at the top of my lungs with the windows down at red lights even when people are looking. I will cry like the world is flooding when I am sad, but especially when I am happy or I see something beautiful.

I miss you. I love you. Thank you for all of it.

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Us.

 

 

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Small Comfort

9 Nov

This morning, after a night of little to no sleep and a lot of tears I turned in my bed to see my phone light up with a call. It was my best friend John ringing, I knew, to seek comfort in our mutual fears. He sounded like the brilliant John I have always loved but he was meeker and spoke of his dread. I wept about the possible hit the environment would take if we back out of the Paris Treaty and for my own personal worry that I will lose my heath care coverage as a person with a pre-existing condition. There were so many nuances of this situation all flooding through me and each one hitting me physically until I felt trapped in my own tears. I kept saying I just wanted to let it go a little and care less and worry on a smaller scale but at 9am this morning I couldn’t do that yet.

John said, “I’ve never been this scared” and described to me his feelings of watching life go on in the coffee shop around him this morning as he panicked. He talked to me about not knowing what to do with his day and how grateful he was he had some work to throw himself into. As I heard this I responded with an understanding, “I don’t know if I have ever felt this way before either. I’ve never been so terrified.”

But that isn’t true.

My Aunt, in a similar phone call just after my talk with John said to me, “No, I have heard you like this before. I will never forget your voice on the other end of the phone the day you called me with your cancer diagnoses.”

It all came rushing back to me. This exact feeling has existed in my body before and I remember it vividly.

When the doctor said the words to me I didn’t understand them. It was like he had created a new language or I had suddenly forgotten English. It was only when I looked to my mother in the tiny chair of the exam room that I started to understand the gravity of the situation. Everything had changed in a moment.

What happens in our bodies and minds when everything we know is turned upside down? The feeling I remember most and felt again today was that the light in the world had altered. The energy of everything shifts and small things like familiar streets and the side door to your house that you’ve walked through thousands of times all look new and scary. The two mile drive from that exam room to my house I looked out the window of my mothers car as she drove in silence and thought “where am I?” It wasn’t dramatic, it was deafening silence and a light post, another light post, another light post, another light post and another light post. Had there always been so many light posts on Hope Street?

The mind races and a desire to have all the information and simultaneously wanting to push out all knowledge clash. What do I eat? How do I spend this day? The fear of shutting down is real and I allowed it to happen moments at a time. I had to break completely down for minutes at a time in order to burst back to life for a few minutes to process and prevent a total collapse.

For a full week I went through the motions of life and lived in a constant state of panic. There are always so many variables when everything changes, aren’t there?

The full story of my illness, treatment and recovery is larger then I want to explore here and now. But that moment was on August 26, 2008 and over eight years later I am here. I am happy and healthy and I have come back stronger. Oddly enough, the time in my life that I fought the hardest and was the bravest was when I was technically at my weakest. I let days and weeks and months pass now casually without having to fight for anything and I hope that hasn’t allowed me to forget my ability to claw like hell towards things getting better.

I will not overlook the permanent damage done to my body and mind by chemotherapy. My immune system will never be as strong as I need it to be and my mind has lost certain abilities and memories I cannot recover. Still, with all of that being said, I’m more powerful and loving and appreciative and capable then I ever would have been without that experience.

I am not special. I did not conquer that moment of life because I am gifted or magic, I did it because I had to. Everyone is capable of inspirational things.

Donald Trump is our next President. The next week will be filled with new fears and worries that we have never felt before. I am here to tell you all, that I have looked that fear in the eyes, cowered and then come right back. Allow for this moment to be hard. Sit with it, think about what makes it scary and then rest for a moment. Then get up and fight like hell; not against what is happening but alongside it to chip away at everything we still have control over. We will get through it and fight for necessary social changes and eventually win. We may also witness permanent damage to the planet and environment we cannot take back.

Do not engage in hateful fights with those who voted for this man. Trust that their fears are valid for them and they made a choice that felt right in their hearts. Show everyone love, inspire people to join their community, smile at everyone on the street, write positive words on social media outlets for the world to see. You do not have to agree with his supporters, you can be upset with them privately or in like company, but do not allow this loss to create more outward hate.

A year after my diagnoses my mother was diagnosed with what they thought to be breast cancer (ultimately neuroendocrine cancer). She called me on the phone after her appointment while I was still recovering in bed myself. She wept and admitted to me that she couldn’t stop shaking. She was scared and felt alone and told me she didn’t know what to do next. I calmly reminded her of the day we shared together when I was diagnosed and filled her in on everything that had been racing through my mind while she was in mom mode caring for me. She was silent when I told her I felt like nothing would ever be the same again and talked about my inability to process what came next. Then I promised her that within a week she would feel better; not one hundred percent or anything close, just better. Every small fear would slowly be replaced with solutions and those solutions would turn into experience and that experience would blossom into strength. I told her I loved her and we got off the phone so she could take whatever time she needed to process everything.

She called me back within a minute and told me she felt okay. She didn’t mean okay like everything was fine but she said she had stopped shaking completely and she felt hopeful and calm.

She was strong during her chemo and fought like hell and one day she told me while we were sitting in her treatment room that my having gone through it and telling her what came after got her through the worst moment of it all. I suddenly felt like it was possible that cosmically I had gotten sick just so I could help her in that one moment with my experience. I like to still think that is the reason because it was all worth it if that was what I was now empowered to do.

The moment my aunt reminded me that I had felt this way before, I remembered what I could do and what we can do. We are strong, kind, forgiving, optimistic and ready in spite of our fears.

 

“From Inferno to Paradiso”

29 Jan

It’s been a crazy week. This has further proven to me that I’m a crazy person.

Monday, January 25 would have been my mothers 66th birthday; one of a few torturous days that used to be just a day and that now will be forever marked. I started feeling the effects of it days in advance, leaving groups of friends to weep uncontrollably in the bathroom and then gathering myself knowing I could be alright. I believed by early afternoon that day that I was going to get through the day itself alright and that the anticipation had worn out all my feelings. I was wrong.

After a lovely phone call with my Aunt, reminiscing about my bright, bubbly, effervescent mother I tumbled into a heartache so excruciating I could feel it in my bones. I lay in my study listening to Barbara Streisand and feeling my insides mush together like they were being shoved through a vice. I felt grief, as I often do, in the most acute way possible.

Sometimes I marvel at how commonplace that feeling has become for me. I feel it, I cry, I ache and my mind thrashes. Then, as though I am two separate people, I ease myself out of it. I remind myself that I am alright, that things are the same and I think about the positives in my life. I remember that I will feel that way again, possibly soon, and I accept it and take breathes in the moments I feel calm. I have learned though experience that I will come out the other side even though it feels at the time like sadness you never recover from.

I move forward.

Wednesday of this week was my Stepfather’s 66th birthday and I made sure to get the night off so I could spend it with him. We went to dinner with a friend of his, I got him his favorite cake and we all spent the night celebrating the ever wonderful Andy. He is such a satisfying person to do things for because he always acts so surprised that anyone has considered him at all. He is appreciative and fun and a joy to be around, so all of it was really most enjoyable for me I think. I would eat Indian food and Carrot Cake with him everyday if I could find an excuse.

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Andy’s first official selfie taken this past fall

Today I received an e-mail from Andy thanking me again for the birthday festivities and telling me that he felt “greatly loved and happier than I have been in some time”. The feeling is so mutual.

Having these two birthdays, which we as a family used to celebrate together, land so back to back had me wrecked with exhaustion this morning. I hardly slept all week and continue to feel something like a hangover of sorrow from Monday combined with a lovely high from Wednesday. I went to work tonight as scheduled and put on my usual public smile. One of my bosses even commented and said, “I’ve never seen you anything but bubbly”. The compliment combined with a friend visiting me at work, my coworkers all in good spirits, and a great comedy show, made for a nice shift.

On the drive home I felt overcome. I felt the ceaseless despair and the undeniable glee that both define my inner self constantly. I thought about each one separately and realized just how dramatic and wild it all is. I rarely feel anything that couldn’t qualify me for a Jane Austen novel or Nicholas Sparks film. I don’t just cry, I weep. I never feel good, I feel exuberant. I love deeply, give heartily, receive graciously and create passionately.

All of this comes from my mother; for better or worse.

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My shameless, fabulous mother owning the 90s aerobics scene

Tonight I feel grateful for all of it. Without living in the spirit crushing events of Monday I would hardly have been so thankful for all the love I felt on Wednesday. I don’t want to be someone who tries to stifle all the insanity, it makes me feel alive. My mother would want me to feel alive. I want to cry the way she did, so openly that she left nearby strangers worried. I want to love the way she did, so deeply that I risk everything. I want to find myself in the many moments I am blessed to have because I was raised by a women who was never ashamed to feel what she was feeling. I want to frighten and astonish everyone with my quirk and zeal and find inspiration in theirs.

I want my life to be madness; crazy, wonderful, unrestrained life that spreads from those I adore to others I meet. I’m sure that way I won’t have regrets and it will certainly make the January 25th’s feel more purposeful instead of just sad.

Note about the posting: I wrote this listening to Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 performed by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic (noteworthy for those who knew my mother well and for the title of the blog). This is dedicated to Morris, my mothers best friend, who wrote me a letter this week that made me feel like I could and should write again. His reaching out to me made an extraordinary difference in my drive and I’m so thankful.

Just One Mile

2 Aug

I returned home from an incredible trip to Europe and found that I had brought back a new woman. I felt confident, happy, capable and ready to take hold of my life. I was cast a major role in a play and a short film, my coworkers made me feel right back at home in a place I love to work, I reconnected deeply with friends and family at a beautiful service for my ever deserving grandmother. I took hold of my love life by cleaning house of all selfish, negative mooches and felt excited to be alone. Things were great, I was unstoppable.

The clue in to this flow of constant wins not lasting must be that I’m using the past tense to describe it all. The truth is, it was real, I am changed, I am happy; yet no trip or event or play could hide the gaping hole I have without my mother. It’s the broken record of my writing, “my mother died”, “time doesn’t heal”, “I need her”.

I talk about it less and less with a majority of people because I don’t want it to be the thing that defines me outwardly even though it is still the thing that defines me inwardly.

This unchanging and constant ache functions as both a motivation and an obstacle, it just depends on the day.

I started to fluctuate heavily between productive days and motionless days. I call it a motionless day because I lay still for entire days sometimes. I get up to find food or shower and my body feels immobilized and heavy. My head swims, I consider fighting it and going outside but I can’t on these days and I just lay back down and go to sleep. On the good days I explore my talents through acting, comedy, auditions for new roles, sewing classes a countless sea of friends I get to call my family, dates with one of the kindest men I’ve ever met and an intensely active social life. I am a force.

I’m not one to get caught in a cycle so manic or unreasonable. I overthink everything and in this case it stopped me in my tracks to look from the outside at how dramatic the daily shifts were.

The answer, it turns out, is small for now. Find the balance each day, on high days, find moments to to grieve, cry and feel. Listening to music in the car, calling Lisa or hugging the cat a little too long are all good options. On the low days, find just one thing to do that makes me feel proud. Not productive, not happy, it’s more than that, it’s about pride.

Today I woke up and thought about a presentation my friend Cait gave this past week about running. I could see and feel her pride and I remembered how much I used to feel that when I ran. So at 7:00 am, instead of going back to sleep for two hours before my day had to start I lept out of bed, threw on my gym clothes and said out loud, “I will run one mile. I will not stop.” It’s amazing how much can happen in a mile.

The first few blocks I felt incredible. The weather was sunny, dry with a slight breeze; summer had never created a morning so perfect.

When I got to about a 1/4 mile my lungs felt like they were being lit on fire, suddenly the sun was no longer my friend, he was the asshole in the sky turning my face into hot lava. I thought to myself, “I can run part of the mile and then walk the rest, I will still be active and I will still be proud” I made the executive decision that I was allowed to stop at any time I needed to because it was very clear I wasn’t going to make it a whole mile. I saw a funeral home and knew that I just had to make the one last block to get there and then my run could die. It was the appropriate place. Then I saw a sign a block past the funeral home (a “one way” sign to be exact) and I can’t explain it, but I knew could run just to that sign and then I was allowed to stop. I heard my mother telling me years ago that on her runs she used to do the same thing, “commit to one small block at a time and tell yourself you can stop whenever you want. Just to that big tree, then just to that cafe then just to that street sign and then before I knew what happened I had run all the way home.” I actually remember where I was sitting when she said that to me.

I was recommitted. I could make it to at least a 1/2 mile. Then as I ran past the liquor store an old homeless man was outside, I recognized him because he is often at that location and so I smile as I chugged by, gasping for air but still running. He looked at me, smiled back and then began to clap. He was actually applauding me. I leave room for the possibility that he was patronizing me, but it didn’t feel that way. It felt like the exact boost I needed and the universe and that man were giving it to me. I never lose sight of the fact that I have always been lucky in that way, or at least always willing to see things in life through that lens.

When I reached a 1/2 mile I knew I was going to do the whole thing. I still wanted to stop and things were starting to hurt more, but I knew it was a cop out to not make it. I woke up and thought “just one mile” so I couldn’t let myself down. I was determined to make this mean something; to make this the first mile of many more to come. I was changing the pattern of my life and nothing that big ever comes easily.

I needed to focus my attention on anything but the fact that I was still running. I saw fresh West End dog poop covered in flies and thought a few moments about how nice it was that they were so happy. Nature really does have a way of giving gifts in unexpected ways.

Then I felt a surge of nausea and instead of worrying I decided I would just barf if need be and then keep on running. I never did puke, but the pain in my stomach from poor life choices last night intensified. I said out loud, “physical pain is no more impossible to handle than any other pain, and you are the most capable girl I have ever known at handling pain. You know pain, you embrace pain and then you push through it and beat pain.” The diners outside the breakfast place must have seen a crazy, red, sweaty, crazy person talking to themselves and clawing for air. In my mind I decided to pretend like I looked like my running friend Cait, adorable and effortless. Imagination is a beautiful thing; all that mattered was how I saw myself.

I rounded the corner of my street knowing that my runkeeper would announce that I’d reached a mile at any moment. It happened under a beautiful shady tree just next door to home and the moment I heard it in my headphones I doubled over and burst into tears. I had given myself the opportunity to just let it out. I was sad, I was happy, but mostly I was proud.

I had traveled thousands of miles to start my new adventure and discovered almost as much within one half mile radius of my home. I see the value in both now.

In her presentation, Cait had mentioned that she took a photo on each of her runs while training for a marathon, and in the moment I was pondering this during my cooldown walk I saw it. The marquee at the theatre across the street from my apartment was my last sign. So here it is, the photo from my first of many more runs. It was only one mile today, but it was the first and it was the hardest and it was the best.

Ireland Day 1 (Swords and Dublin)

24 May

I landed in the Dublin airport in the mid afternoon after 15 hours of travel. One car ride, two flights, a train ride, two busses and a zillion security checks and I made it with minimal trouble or stress. As it turns out I’m a very calm traveler and I have my wits about me so none of it felt very tough. I take back everything I said before about Air France, they are classy as f***. Large, plush seats, complimentary campagne, unlimited booze, two meals including items like quinoa salad, brie and coconut cake) personal TVs on the back of each seat with on demand movies, television and music. The selection included many new releases so I watched the newest Hobbit movie and pretended I was flying to The Shire. To be fair, if I could compare the parts of Ireland I’ve seen in my first 24 hours to anywhere, it would be Middle Earth. 

My second flight was a little shadier. It was a tiny plane straight out of a trip from 1980 but I got to get cozy with a tiny old French man, so that’s a life experince I can check off. France from the air is spectacular; it looks like a beautiful patchwork quilt dotted with quaint neighborhoods. I also got very excited at the realization that I speak fluent French (I can only say hello, thank you, welcome, good bye, have a nice trip, and enjoy the food but those were the only things I needed to say in my 4 hours in Paris so that’s fluent in my mind).

For my first night I had booked a room at a B&B in a town called Swords just north of Dublin. The proprietor there was passive aggresive and seemingly sweet because she had to be, but I felt undertones of annoyance so I delt with her minimally. She directd me to a local pub called The Old Schoolhouse half a mile away in downtown Swords. It was everything I had pictured in an Irish pub. I was immediately friends with Dominic, an older Irish gentleman who was generous about purchasing Guinesses but knows nothing about where to eat actual food.  It seems like food in general isn’t often considered here, I went my first night with no dinner, but a beelly full of beer. The cute male bartenders were enjoying making jokes with me and I of course ate up all the attention I was getting. Dominic was introducing me to every person who came in and I got a much needed dose of salty old Irish men and great conversation. Everyone is so friendly and outgoing and I felt at home, realizing this trip is already just what I needed. I anticipated feeling scared and anxious, but I’m fast learning that this type of travel is right in my comfort zone. I love meeting new people, every new place is exciting, I enjoy my own company and I don’t mind getting a little lost.

I didn’t really plan any part of this trip, but I especially didn’t plan to land on what would have been my Grandmother’s 90th birthday. A few months ago she was talking to me about a big party; she always wanted a reason for a grand event. It’s not as though a 90th birthday isn’t reason to celebrate but at the time the thought of planning such a gathering was overwhelming with my busy work schedule. Now I look at where life has taken me and how much has changed in a short period of time and I’m a little sad thinking about the lack of a party and the lack of her. 

When I decided a week ago that I would get on a plane and land anywhere my first thought was to call her. My thoughts always used to be “call mom” and then “call Grandma.” After we lost my mother I spent months getting used to not being able to call her about everything. I still wish to call her constantly, but I have become more aware that I can’t; now I have to start all over again remembering that I can’t call my Grandmother. She had become the immediate replacement as my first call for news. To be fair, she was a worthy replacement for the spot as every bit of my life I shared with her was greeted with enthusiasm and fascination. She always told me that we had each other and I know for both of us time spent together was a small reprieve from missing my mom as we both found pieces of her in each other.

I know what both my mom and Grandma would have thought about me taking this trip; they would have been thrilled and terrified. I would have been made to stay in touch with them constantly. It’s amazing how much I miss their constant worrying; it’s a nice feeling to know someone can’t live without you. I’m checking in several times a day with Lisa, who has informed me if she goes too long without a word from me she will be contacting the embassy. 

The day I flew out was also the same day that Ireland voted on legalizing gay marriage. The day I landed my NPR app notified me that the yesses had it and in further reading I saw that in spite of being one of the most conservative and religious countries in Europe, 75% of voters in Dublin had been for it. The streets were lined with signs about voting for equality and the locals were all a buzz. It felt special to start my trip with such a positive historical event. When chatting with an older Irish gentleman in a pub he told me religiously he didn’t personally support it, but he was in favor of the yes vote because the choices of others weren’t for him to decide. He then also told me, as he chuckled, that he has always been in favor of two women together but was less thilled about thinking of two men together. Baby steps I suppose; if ignorant people choose to be in favor of equality because they can recognize that it is right in spite of their personal beliefs, that is a good start.

 

One of many displays in the small town of Swords, Ireland


Lessons Learned on Day 1

  • The drivers are always on the side of the road I don’t expect and they are mad men.
  • Don’t ever stand on the bus even if there is something to hold on to. The Bus Drivers are in their own version of the game Crazy Taxi and they start and stop like a Terrier on speed.
  • Everything in Paris is pretty and everyone there is likely better than me.
  • Irish toilets are tall so everything lands loudly in them.
  • Going out just to drink is referred to as “going on the piss” which I’ll keep saying long after I leave.
  • The bathroom is called “the jacks” and I still don’t know how to use it in a sentence.
  • Tomatoes are seved with breakfast grilled and it is crazy delicious.
  • Due to my attraction to redheads, accents and beards, I actually have too many cute guys to even know what to do. For now I’m happy to befriend the safe, older men who have good stories, pay for my beer and refuse to let me return the favor.

Grief.

14 Jul

My mother died.

Everyone knows. I say it to people I’ve only known a short while because it is so a part of my reality I feel it’s impossible to hold it in. I make people uncomfortable by blurting it out in a conversation about groceries or the weather or their dog. Everything makes me think of her.

I talk to her. I call out to her daily knowing she will not respond and still feel panic and grief when nothing comes back. Am I sensing that the air around me feels warm because I need her to be there or is she really there?

If I talked about my unending sadness as often as I feel it, I would wear thin the generosity of those in my life who I know would never stop listening. Some days I want to talk about it the entire day, cry and scream with someone else there. I am not sure why someone else being there would comfort me but it would. I don’t know how to ask for this type of support because having to verbalize my need for it degrades its constance. Saying the words, “I need to talk about my mother” feel obvious and weighted. Nobody would ever say no, but I cannot ask.

I scream alone, I cry so hard that I emit guttural sounds that alarm even me. If someone else were there to see it, to accept it, to hold me and encourage my screaming I might feel better. When I weep in solitude it feels like an effort to connect with her, to smell her, to feel her big red hair engulfing me, to sense her presence. I feel her everywhere and nowhere all at once and it takes my breath away.

My sister got married this past weekend. Her wedding, her dress, how incredibly beautiful she looked all exceeded my expectations. She was perfect, he is perfect for her and every moment was so effortlessly “them”. Their friends, the food, the venue, the ceremony, it was all this beautiful reflection of how happy they are and although I knew it would be an emotional time, I didn’t know I would feel it so deeply. We all cried the whole day. We cried because we were happy and we cried because we were sad. My mother would have sobbed the entire day; nobody I have ever known cried so many tears of joy as she did. A few stray notes from a symphony or a hug from a loved one could hairline trigger her tears.

During the ceremony the officiant announced they were lighting a candle to honor my mother. I knew about it beforehand but apparently not the timing of it and I was so overcome with grief I felt I wanted to run away. Instead I cried uncontrollably in front of everyone. Seeing dozens of guests sympathy and personal sorrow while I stood on display made it more impossible to get my weeping under control. My eyes searched the scene for anything, I don’t know what I was looking for but I found my sisters face and she found mine and for a moment we both reached out our hands. I have never loved a person more than I loved her in that instant.

It was knowing that she and I understood the loss in the same way and moreover, that we were in this together. That connection with each other would have made my mother weep with joy.

This week I need my mommy. The world is an intensely scary place.

I am an adult. I am an adult. I am an adult. Right? Some days I am charged by a motivating force and I can accomplish anything I tackle. I want to make my mother proud and show her that she doesn’t have to worry, I am doing it. Other days I am a six-year-old lost on the beach, frantically looking for my mothers umbrella. The waterfront is long and the people on the sand are dense. All I can do it search under the dozens of umbrellas I think are my mother, feeling I will never find her. I need to find her because she is my mom, an everyday concept I never and always took for granted when I had her.

I read a book by Ann Hood called Comfort; it is about her passage through grief after losing her 5-year-old daughter. Although I couldn’t relate every experience that came from her specific loss, I couldn’t put the book down. I have never read a whole book in a day, until now.

In the prologue the first sentence is, “Time heals.” Reading that arrangement of letters on the page I found myself wanting to trust that it was true. I read it over and over with purposeful breathing willing myself to believe it. If time heals then some day I will ache less.

On page 133 a chapter begins with, “Time doesn’t heal.”

I suddenly felt that Ann had betrayed me. She had lied to me and was taking it all back; I could no longer believe that someday I might be lighter again. It doesn’t surprise me how quickly I let go of the original phrase from the prologue, somewhere in my mind I knew it was never true. Yet the latter sentence made me feel better; it let me know that if I miss my mother this much every single day forever, that is okay. I am allowed to feel emptiness and fear, I will even admit that I want to feel those things. The idea that I will never get over this makes her special and she was incredibly special.

I do not remember the good in my mother because she is gone, I remember it because it is all that she was; good. Even the things we used to fight about or the times when she made me cuckoo came entirely from her goodness. We would fight about a bill I had neglected or I would get mad when she gave me advice I didn’t want to hear. That was just her being a mother, caring for me and guiding me through life. It made me insane that she didn’t get out enough or that she held on to so many things in her house. Tiny, curled up her on the couch with a book and a pen to mark the words that moved her or write he thoughts in the margins. There are shelves of books with pages containing bits of her and her experiences with novels she read over and over. She would wrap up one bite of food to save for later if she didn’t finish it so that she wouldn’t waste even one morsel and tall glasses with one sip filled the fridge in her house. It’s too much for that to be gone. To open the ice box at my parents home and see normal leftover portions or the lack of a phone call to yell at me about a parking ticket is a loss of so much good.

I want to write forever to tell about how extraordinary she was. If I can just make others see what the world has lost then somehow I will find her, or feel it less. How can people not feel the difference in the energy the earth is missing? I want to shake strangers and say, “Don’t you sense that?! The air from the world is gone and you act like everything is the same.” The best way I’ve ever read this sentiment came from an article in the New Yorker written by a girl with an experience so similar to mine I now reread the article regularly. She says, “A man was out on the street walking his dog. I stared at him, waiting for some sign of acknowledgement that the fundamentals of life had changed. He kept on strolling, of course. How stupid of me, to think that everyone knew.”

These times occur when the normal everyday stresses of life seem so petty and cumbersome on top of my grief that it all spills over. I have to still push forward, find joy, work hard and live fully in spite of this void.  Some days I hope that “time heals” and on others I know that “time doesn’t heal”. I will navigate the eternal struggle and even find comfort in knowing I loved someone that much.  I am grounded and managing in the unalterable reality that strikes me time and again. My mother died.

Us.

Us.

Crosswords

1 Jan

I have recently started doing a lot of crossword puzzles on my iPhone. I have always loved them and there has even been three or four phases of me “deciding I want to do more crosswords”(which in my language means going to a bookstore and spending too much money on books I will then complete two puzzles in and then either lose or permanently shelf.) For some reason when I rediscover that love of crosswords, the books I already have aren’t shiny enough or the pages have yellowed or I started 10 of the puzzles and never finished so I want a fresh start, or I completed all the easy level puzzles and I don’t want to try a medium level. You may ask “so why not just buy a book with all easy puzzles Samantha?”… don’t get logical with me, logic is just silly.

My grandparents on both sides always did crossword puzzles and my mother is the grand master of them, so I have always watched and admired how much they knew. I thought once or twice it would be fun to complete one with my mom and learn from her, but it turns out she knows all the answers and she reads faster than me, so she would be giving me the answers to write in and then moving on to the next clue while I basically just became her crossword secretary. I could throw in the occasional, “Oh, I knew that one!” to make myself sound smart, but the real lesson here was that we should just find a different activity to enjoy together. Regardless, I have always loved the crossword legacy I thought my family to have and I wanted in.

Now that I do the puzzles on my phone I think every day how super awesome and smart I am. I can choose hard level puzzles and near complete them. At the end I seek help from those with knowledge based in other areas and I feel good that I can do more and more all the time. I recently tried a medium puzzle in a book again the other day and got stuck pretty early on and realized that my super awesome skills were stemming from the “hint” feature on the app. You can put in the answers that you think are correct and then hit this magical button and the app won’t give you the answer (which means I’m NOT CHEATING), but it will show you what letters are wrong. Anyone who knows crosswords knows that more than half the battle is getting a few right answers to work off of, and if something you write in is wrong it can be a real head scratcher when 27 down is “Board game with Colonel Mustard and others” and you know the answer is “clue” but the letters you have are Z_ _ F. I am sure that the frustration that comes with figuring out what is wrong is all part of the learning process, but I’m not overly interested in personal growth so I think it’s stupid. So now I feel like I had it all wrong, I’m not necessarily getting better at this, I just have fancier, easier ways of approaching the activity.

I have also noticed some things in puzzles that kind of irk me. For one, I hate when an answer is multiple words… you can’t show me there is a space so don’t act like it exists. I will look at the clue, “But of course!” and the letters I have are “A H Y _ _”. This triggers me saying over and over and over in my mind “ahee… ahee… ahee… what is ahee…?” and when the letters get filled in from other clues and I see the answer is “AH YES” my reaction is always anger towards the writer of the puzzle. I frequently find myself saying, “oh, well that is a stupid answer” rather than just admitting that I was duped.

The thing is though, I do crosswords as a leisure activity, no one writing these things should be trying to trick me, it’s just mean. This brings me to my next irritation in crosswords, the worst of them all, the question mark clues. You know them, “spare room?”… and I want to say, “Wait… so you don’t know the answer either, but I’m supposed to figure it out?” Or worse are the long answers that create the theme of the puzzle, “Directors’s edit of a war film with a more adorable treaty-signing scene?”. No no no. There is no way that this answer is even going to be reasonable (by the way, it was CUTER TRUCE RECUT… seriously). I can just envision the creator of said clue, sitting at home making his words and patting himself on the back for that gem. I think the question mark is just letting these guys off the hook though. You mean to tell me you can make a clue that makes no sense but if you add a “?” to the end of it, I have to just accept that I won’t be able to get it without having MOST of the needed letters? I wonder if I can use this in my day to day life. In emails I can just say, “I haven’t gotten to that assignment yet?” or “I would love to have dinner?” and then when people need something from me I can just claim that I added the question mark so I was allowed to be elusive.

I also enjoy crosswords because they make me feel smart and they keep me feeling like I’m learning and engaging, but once in a while I get a clue that nobody should know the solution to. I’m sure I run the risk of looking dumb here by giving an example because inevitably someone out there will know the answer, but for that one person I say this: You are better than me. You are better than most of us. Don’t rub it in. In this instance the example is

40 Across: Indian Honorific

Answer: Sahib.

My mother will read this and later admit that she knew the answer, but she does a lot of these puzzles, so she is ahead of us all.

Although I have listed here my frustrations with crosswords, I leave you with my favorite ever clue and answer; it even has a question mark:

24 Across: Drips from the 16th letter?

Answer: Pee Leak.

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