My mother died five years ago. This is the anniversary date. You know, I don’t think we should group death into the anniversary category. There should be a separate category, like “endiversary” or “passing day” or “A Fucking Sad Event Occurred Day”.
I’m going to go with endiversary, because I made it up and I like it.
A few days before the endiversary, I start to feel things. Little twinges of emotion, shortness of temper, and the desire to hide myself away. Now, I suppose those in my immediate realm will exclaim, “Wait! You’re like that ALL THE TIME!” but they’re just being assholes so ignore them. Things are somehow magnified in their intensity, and I am not as up to to coping with things as I normally am. Truth be told, I am so caught up in the effort to be stoic that I am likely to crumble under the weight of such a feat.
In the five years that have followed since her death, I have gone through every conceivable stage of grief that could be possible. Hell, I think I may have discovered some new ones. I really think that I cried so many tears in just the week after that this is why I have no tears now. I simply used up my available bank of leaky, salty, eye waters and when the well went dry, I was SOL.
After the tears came the love, profound and crushing in its reality. During that phase, no one could have loved their mother more than I did. I saw only the good, the loving ways, the things she did that were phenomenal, and, in doing so, I crafted a halo to perch atop her head. It was made of silver and emeralds because those were her favorite precious metals and jewels and it was a beacon to all in Heaven that I was honoring my mother. I was beatifying her.
Of course, the halo came crashing down to earth when the next phase of grief hit me. It fell and it hit the ground and it shattered into a million little pieces, and it was not at all repairable. Her post-mortem fuck-you came in the form of an estate utterly lacking in preparedness or the funds to see things to their conclusion. In the end, she took the phrase, “You can’t take it with you” so seriously that she decided that it really meant “You can’t take it with you and you should also leave the bill for someone else to pay because what the fuck do you care? You’re dead.” I was so angry at her for many months following this discovery. Just as her admission, shortly before she died, that I had never been able to please her and that it wasn’t entirely fair….this seemed to be another piece of proof that she really had regretted having me all those years ago.
What do you call a stage like that? To this day, I still don’t know.
Eventually, I struck a sort of happy medium. It was a peaceful cohabitation of love and hate, which I suppose characterized our relationship from beginning to end. I had to give up the ghost, so to speak, and quit providing safe harbor to the demons that terrorized and taunted me, their teeth gnashing as they delighted in tearing me apart from within the confines of my troubled mind. I suppose she had her own demons to fight, too. I suppose she took them with her, silencing them forever. I suppose that she finally found her own peace. But I find that time has a way of wearing down the anger into just a slight twinge. Now, there is really only love.
It has been five years, and so much has happened that she missed. Four new great-grandchildren have been born. The thing about my mom? She adored her grandchildren. She delighted in them and then delighted in their children. We did see eye to eye about the fact that my kids are blessings.
The Male Sibling Unit has really matured and blossomed in ways that would make her proud.
And her granddaughter married the best guy in the world. I do not tell my daughter this, but I see the best parts of my mom in her. Her creativeness, her earnestness about everything she does, the gentle way she has with children. Sometimes, her eyes will light up and she will pop off, make a smart comment; and it’s my mom, as I remember her when I was a little girl. I see the mother who made me something out of nothing; a cardboard box was designed and drawn on and parts were cut and pasted and my 3 year-old self had a play car to sit in and “drive”. Play-dough was made from scratch. Paper dolls were drawn and cut out for me to dress. Every holiday was an event and every day, she found ways to engage me in learning, creating, and being myself. She might not recognize these qualities in her granddaughter as being reflections of her, but I do.
I wore a skirt with a green flower print to the wedding. I had planned on wearing a gorgeous dress I bought months ago, but I the end, I decided that my mother needed to be present in some way. She would have been so immensely proud and that she missed it makes me so genuinely sad that it makes the dull ache of missing her pale by comparison. So I wore green – her favorite color – and I imagined her sitting on the bench next to me, clutching a wad of tissues and smiling beatifically as she watched her youngest grandchild become a wife. If I believed in God, I could wax poetic about how she was “smiling down” from Heaven, but I don’t believe that. Instead, I believe her presence was felt in the whisper of winds amongst the trees and the way the sun was shining upon a bride so beautiful, it took our breath away. She was there.
She was there.
Five years is a long time to be a motherless child. I think about her in some way every single day. Her voice is still fresh in my memory. I don’t feel the need to please her anymore, nor do I have the added stress of a religious faith that indoctrinates Heaven and Hell and cows us into believing “they can see us” after death. I felt her for a long time after she died, and I think that takes time to fade away, like fog in the morning on a warm, sunny, Autumn day. She’s here, yes.
In the whispering of winds in the trees.