"It was cancer. I was 6."
"It's ok. It was a long time ago."
"Everything worked out alright in the end."
Those are the lines I have ingrained in my vocabulary. The lines I have rehearsed with a gentle, fake smile. The lines I can pull off easily, without a waiver of emotion.
My mom's death comes up every once in a while and that's the conversation I have with people. I am rehearsed enough that I can pull off those lines and come across as well adjusted. That I have made my peace with my childhood trauma and moved forward. It's a nice facade to have for the world.
Except it is complete and total bullshit.
It is absolutely, 100% NOT OK that my mom died. I am NOT ok. Even though it has been 18 years, it does not feel like a long time ago. I experience the aftermath of her death every single day. And while many, many good things have happened to me, they are all tinged with sadness and loss.
This week marks 18 years since my mom died. I hadn't really realized how long it had been until I did the math the other day. 18 fucking years. That is a long time. More than half of my mother's life time.
18 years. It was so long ago. I don't really remember life with my mother. I have some very distant, fuzzy and fragmented memories of her, but I don't remember our life together. I don't remember my family.
Every year, I dread two days. Mother's Day and the day my mom died. As fate would have it, those days fall within a month of each other. It's hard. Some years, I'm ok and it barely bothers me at all. Some years I am an emotional wreck for weeks. Either way is terrible. If I'm having a "good" year and I don't think of her too much, then I feel overwhelmingly guilty. If I have a bad year, I shut down for a couple of weeks. It's a lose lose situation.
But with a dead mom, I don't really see how any situation can't be lose/lose. I mean, my mom died. She died. When I was just a little girl. And I never had outlets or therapy to deal with it. It just got pushed deeper and deeper down until I can't even think of her without a nervous breakdown.
Obviously, since I'm writing this, this is a "bad" year. I'm sure it's because I'm a mother myself now. In some ways, I'm glad that by being a mom has brought me to greater understanding of my own mother. I don't know anything about the kind of relationship she and I had, but I feel like I have a base-line understanding of what it must have been. I'm pretty confident that she loved me like I love Wilson. And it feels good to understand her in that way. But at the same time, it makes it hurt even more. I know how much she must have loved my brother and me. I also know how much it must have hurt her to not be there for us. I don't really know if she knew she was dying, but I can only imagine the absolute agony she must have felt knowing she might die and leave her children.
It's hard. And I'm struggling. I don't talk about her or my pain with anyone. I don't have the words to describe how it feels. Sometimes I feel dumb for letting what happened 18 years ago dictate my emotions and mental state. I feel like I should have moved on by now. I feel like I shouldn't still be grieving.
But the pain and sadness is undeniable. I'm really good at putting it away and keeping it in a deep, dark place that no one sees. But it is there all the time. I'm sure it's what contributes to my ongoing struggles with depression and anxiety.
But I'm writing how I feel here. It's the first time I've ever written it down. I want to talk about it, even if it's just posting here and no one ever reads it. At least I said it. Maybe one day I'll be able to say the words out loud. I certainly want to. I owe it to my son to be able to explain everything to him. I want him to know about his grandmother. I want him to recognize her picture. I want him to ask questions about her. I know that she would love him so much and be the best grandmother. Just because she isn't alive doesn't mean she can't have a role in Wilson's life. I want her memory to live on. I hope one day Wilson will tell his children about her. It's very "circle of life"-ish but I know a part of my mother lives on inside me and inside my child. We were both made from parts of her.
This post is probably incoherent. I've had about 3 drinks and I'm feeling overly emotional. But these are all things I want written down, for myself and Wilson.