There are a few experiences in your life that change you in a fundamental way. There’s no way to predict how much, and even when you are well-prepared, these changes often take you by surprise. For example, when you are expecting a child, it seems like everyone you meet will tell you having a child will change your life. Of course, you nod your head and agree, because you know a child will change your life. But you have no idea, until you have a child, just how much your life will change.
On the other end of the spectrum, the death of a parent will also change your life. And again, no matter how prepared you seem to be, how much you resign yourself to that immutable fact, the truth is you have no idea how this momentous experience will change you. Perhaps it doesn’t change some people, but I can only speak for myself.
Yesterday was the two year anniversary of my momma’s death. I wish I could say it was easier this year than last, but I can’t. In some ways, it was worse. For the last week or so I have been definitely out of sorts, crabby, and prone to uncontrollable bouts of tears. Simple tasks just seem so damned difficult. I see her face everywhere I look. I went to breakfast with my BFF and I was fine until a woman about my age came in with her mother – and I was torn between feeling angry that she still had her mother and feeling a loss so great it literally took my breath away. I felt like I had been gut-shot.
The loss I expected. The anger, I did not.
So, I’m angry with this poor woman who was simply taking her mom to breakfast. I wanted to stand up and say to her, Do you know how fucking lucky you are right now? Do you? You sit there and you’re having a conversation with your mother, and I don’t have mine, I HATE YOU.
That can’t be normal.
And at lunch the other day, the waiter was so damned….ENTHUSIASTIC. I mean, he was like a guy from a Secret Waiter Cult, so over-friendly and insincere I wanted to stab him with a spork. Like, shut up, bring me my sandwich, and shut the fuck up! “Anything you need, just let me know,” he says, and I’m thinking, Can you bring my mother back? No? Then leave me the FUCK alone, but of course I don’t say that. I just imagine him with a spork sticking out of his eye.
That can’t be normal, either.
Grief is a really sneaky, slimy buggering bastard. It will come up from behind and breathe down the back of your neck, making every hair on your body stand on end and every nerve tingle as if it’s on fire. Most days leading up to the 22nd I had no emotional control at all. My eyes would start leaking if someone simply said, “How are you today?” So embarrassing when you pump gas, go in to pay, and then start crying when the attendant says something so innocuous. I took to wearing sunglasses at every opportunity, even indoors, even when it was cloudy or getting dark.
So, of course, in this state, I just don’t want to be around people. Not just the poor innocent in restaurants or gas stations who have no idea when they greet me I’m thinking of sharp implements, but the people that know me or see me on a regular basis. I feel a bit guilty feeling so crappy and sad, and I don’t want to make other people feel sad when they look at me, leaking at the eyes from a simple “Hello,” so I try to stay to myself, ignore the phone (not difficult even on the best of days) and just shut down for a while.
My momma and I were very close until her drinking affected my children. At that point, I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life, and told her I couldn’t have a relationship with her as long as she was a drunk. I can’t tell you how that broke my heart and how I wish I had those eight years back. Still, later she thanked me for doing it, and told me it was the right decision. Was it?
Sometimes, I don’t feel….worthy? I guess? …to be her daughter. She was one incredible woman, let me tell you. Here is just one example: after over forty years of debilitating and destructive alcoholism, she quit drinking and got sober all by herself. Yes, you heard that correctly. She went through detox on her own – and once she decided to get sober, she did it. She went to meetings, but she did it all on her own. If you have any experience or knowledge about alcoholism, you have some idea of how difficult, if not downright impossible, that is to do, and she stayed sober for the rest of her life. We were able to reconnect and get past the pain of the drinking years, recapturing the closeness I remembered as a girl. I know how incredibly lucky I was to get my mother back and I appreciated it Every. Single. Moment.
She was far from perfect, but she was an admirable force of nature, she surely was.
Big shoes. My momma had big shoes.
I’m a changed person since Momma died. I didn’t expect that. I have gone through a lot of difficult experiences over the years . Up until Momma passed, I felt as if I had finally recovered and was on my way to becoming the type of person I wanted to be – maybe the kind of person I was meant to be. When Momma died, it just knocked all the pins out from under me. I’m not sure who I am anymore, even two years later.
Then I feel self-indulgent and selfish.
Onward. I know Momma would be pissed off if she saw me wallowing like this (and I’m quite sure she can, actually) and so, on with the Big Girl Panties. I will remind myself of the following:
1. I am nowhere near as strong as my mother, but there’s no shame in that. I highly suspect there are very few people as strong as my mother.
2. It’s okay to cry. It’s not weak or stupid.
3. I am going to miss her for the rest of my life, so I might as well get used to it.
4. Stabbing innocent people with sporks is probably illegal and it’s really not socially acceptable.
5. Grief is spectacularly selfish. She’s fine where she is, and probably already running the place.
Am I okay?
Yeah. Not great, but okay. Okay is good enough for rock and roll.