I was among friends over the weekend, and there is a woman that I consider one of the most grief evolved people I have ever met. I am in awe of her ability to speak honestly and openly and be completely vulnerable. The only time that I feel like I am able to do that is through writing. So here we are.
She said something that resonated with me. And made me think about stuff I apparently had buried pretty deeply because I haven’t thought about it in a long time. I started to think back to when my mom died.
Now, we’re talking nearly 27 years ago. I’ve lived longer on this earth without my mother than I did with her. Being a mom myself, that realization makes me very sad.
Some 27 years ago I was 16. My mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 14, roughly a week or two before I started high school. She was sick and in and out of the hospital, my freshman and sophomore years. My dad was an alcoholic disaster. He struggled to keep it together when things were good. My mother’s diagnosis and impending death pushed him completely off the wagon for good.
I remember when my mom first got sick that my sister and I had to start doing our own laundry. My mom had written out on index cards how to sort and wash everything and taped it to the cabinets above the washer. There’s so much more that I wished she’d left instructions for. Like how to live without your mom.
I will never forget the phone call in the early morning hours of May 25th. And my sister crying. I’ll never forget that feeling, like the Earth shifted on its axis. We knew it was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I remember the last time we visited her and she was barely conscious. I knew in that moment that time was up. What I don’t understand is why we weren’t there. Why did we leave? Why weren’t we there with her when she died? Was it my father’s choice? I hate that she was alone. Why didn’t I ask if we should be there? Why didn’t anyone else? I will regret this forever.
I wish she had left instructions on how to deal with my father. After she died things got bad. He was never around and when he was, he was drunk. And either mean or depressed. I had to learn how to take care of myself. No one cared about my grades or where I was or what I was up to. My father’s grief was so bad that the rest of us ceased to exist to him. He died on May 25th with my mom. And as the only other person in our house, I was left to pick up the pieces. And it was terrible. But I didn’t know what else to do. Or how to fix it. So I just grinned and beared it. I was fine. Everything was fine.
I wish she left instructions about how to handle my grief. Because we didn’t talk about stuff back then. It was just expected that my mom died and I had to move on. And parent my alcoholic father. And create these awful trauma patterns that I would spend the rest of my adult life trying to break. And it’s really hard to unlearn that you can actually depend on people. That you can actually ask for help. Or that you can actually say no. Or that your worth isn’t just tied to caring for/doing things for everyone else.
And I miss my mom. Because no one has come close to taking care of me like she did. There are so many times when I cried out for her. When I was in labor with Darcy, pretty much anytime I’m sick, and the ambulance ride after Benny and I were hit by my car. Because I needed her to make it better. And 26 years with her being gone, I still do.