Thursday, June 15, 2023

Laws of thermodynamics

Dear Mama,

Today, or tonight really, it will be a month since you left us. 

I remember coming up the back stairs, and India meeting us at the door and asking us why we were carrying Nana's bags.

And then I started sobbing and we crumpled together.

That was only a month ago. That was one enormous month ago.

In some moments, I expect to see you in the other room. In others, I feel like I haven't seen you in years.

When I stop to consider it, it feels like forever.

Sometimes I forget and think I can't wait to tell you something. And then I remember.

Last night Jordan was eating gulab jamun for dessert.

We had some left over from the Delhi reunion. Which was wonderful. You'd have absolutely loved it.

There were so many grown-up kids you loved from high school. So many people with memories of time at our house or together at the school.

When Maude arrived, and our girls met, the first thing I thought was that I couldn't wait for you to see this third generation friendship. And then I remembered that you weren't here anymore.

I told Maude, and she said she had the exact same thought and realization.

She said, "Betty was my last mom."

And then we both hugged and cried.

I told Jordan that gulab jamun is better warm, so he put two of them in their syrup in the microwave, but then they came out too hot, and when I expressed surprise at how fast that happened he said something about the rate at which liquid heats and sciency things about it.

So then he cut it up and I said it would cool faster, and did he know why, and he said yes, because we've increased the surface area.

And then he mentioned that they'd been studying the laws of thermodynamics.

I only know one of them. So I said, "Energy can't be created or destroyed. That's why I think Nana is still here."

And I'll be honest: I had to google the definition of thermodynamics. Even though I know what the prefix "thermo" means. I also had to look up how to spell syphilis because I was making a text joke to Maude and my phone kept telling me I was wrong but had no spelling to suggest.

It's an old word and malady, for Pete's sake. Does Apple really not have syphilis in their dictionary? 

Anyway, my search history is pretty random is what I'm saying.

Nick, who admittedly knows significantly more about science than I do, insists the kind of energy I'm talking with you still being here about isn't the same. (But in this case, I know I'm right. But as we both know, it's easier to just out loud let him be right.)

 Jordan nodded and said, "I smell Nana sometimes. You know how she smelled kind of sweet?"

I know exactly what he's talking about. I haven't smelled you spontaneously since a couple nights after you died. I'm rationing opening your drawers--and anyway, that's not the same thing.

Jordan and I talked about how often the two of you played Old Maid. He said he didn't think anything about it then. Like, it wasn't special, because you were here. 

And that's how it is. It's not special because we're together all the time just doing the things we always do.

Until we can't ever do them together again.

He said he was trying to teach you to play chess, and that wasn't going so well, but it was fun.

I feel lucky that they had so much time together with you. That spending time with you was as easy as heading into the living room or up to your room to see if you wanted to play cards or walk to the store.

The kids are doing quite well, although I think they're extra tired. And India cries very easily if something goes wrong, really over anything. But I know it's about you.

Me, I cry so much. So much.

Yesterday morning on the way to yoga I ran into friends and they said they were sorry and gave me big hugs and I started crying.

So I arrived at yoga pre-cried.

I almost always cry in savasana now. I tell myself to breathe. I try to clear my mind, and focus on my breath. But as I settle my body, and stretch out my legs, I think about how soft and smooth the skin on your legs was when I'd rub your feet in that hospital bed. 

You had the smoothest skin. I think about how I'll never get to touch you again.

So I lie there and cry as quietly as I can. My throat hurts and my tears fill my ears, trickle down and make wet spots on my mat.

My body is full of all that missing my mama hurt. I think all that sad energy is there constantly, just waiting for quiet moments. And then it leaks out.

Like how you can fill a glass and it can be slightly overfull but the surface tension keeps it from spilling. But you add one more molecule or you shift it a bit, and it overflows.

I do have a couple science terms up my sleeve.

There are days where I'm doing OK--or anyway at the OKer end of the OK/Terrible scale, and then I'll get completely derailed by someone I hadn't seen since before you went into the hospital.

Like, I went to our pharmacy to get prescriptions. Nick had told them to stop any automatic refills you had, but I hadn't been in there.

And as I was at the counter, Manjula came over and asked me if what she'd heard was true. She couldn't believe it, she said. You'd just been in there a couple weeks ago. You were so vibrant.

So we had this whole big conversation about how lovely you were, and how afraid she is to lose her parents. We talked about all of it. 

I cried the whole way through. She gave me a big hug. I cried the whole way home.

I should start making a list of the unexpected people who have hugged me since you died. 

We boarded Wanda with our dog trainers last weekend because we were having so many people coming through.

The wife of the couple, who we hadn't yet met in person, dropped Wanda off. She told me her mom had died in 2013. We stood on the stoop and hugged and cried.

There are so many of us without moms. All three women who came to stay last week. They still have their dads, though. Which is statistically unlikely, I think?

Nick keeps asking if I'm tired, and then I say no, I just miss my mama. And then I start to cry.

But it's true that I'm also tired.

Being this sad is exhausting. I'm sure there's a scientific explanation. Maybe it's under another law of thermodynamics. Like, grief requires heat, which is why being upset makes me so cold.

Or maybe sadness is heavy to carry. Everything takes more effort.

Maybe I'm burning more calories (which are measures of heat? I think?) walking my sad body from place to place than I was back in April when I wasn't all sad.

Today is Jordan's last official day of 8th grade. School doesn't end until next week, but they're letting the 8th graders stop early. They have to go a couple mornings to practice for their "promotion" ceremony, which is next week.

Two things struck me. Today, the 15th, makes one month since you left us. And you won't see Jordan finish 8th grade. You won't see him start high school.

I know you were there for so many important moments. And I know we had lots and lots of time.

But I have no photos of you from May. My last photos that are really cute are of you and other friends. Not you and me. Why was I taking so many yoga photos and not getting people to take photos of us?

I want more. I don't care how much we had. I am greedy, and I want more.

I miss you so much.



Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Memories seep from my veins

Last Wednesday, I was all, oh, goat rodeo, hahaha! 

People are multidimensional and grief is so weird and complicated, and it's true that you can cry and then laugh in successive breaths.

But I didn't cry at all on Wednesday, and so I wondered if I was done crying.

Which would be OK. Crying or laughing or just not crying doesn't mean you loved someone more or less than someone else who is or isn't crying. It doesn't really mean anything.

So maybe I was done?



On Saturday, I woke up at 6:30 am sobbing. Bereft.

Nick folded me into his arms in a giant bear hug and I cried and cried. I snotted all over his shirt.

Fortunately, he's a morning person. 


A friend told me she's been dreaming of my mother and me. 

I haven't yet dreamt of her. I think I've only dreamt of my dad once, ever.

I long to see Betty in my dreams.


The picture above was our last photo together. 

Why didn't I get us all dressed up and do family photos this winter? I thought about it. Thought, we should do it while we're still all here.

And then I didn't.

Why did I spent so much time taking photos of flowers and weird little cracks in sidewalks?


I want to hug my mama. I want to make her laugh. I want to hear her tell someone that I'm the fittest person she knows.

She was very impressed with all the yoga. During Covid I did zoom yoga on her floor. Some of the classes were incredibly hard.

She liked to call it torture. How was torture today? Great! 


I want her to show me something weird and incomprehensible that she's done to her phone when she was fucking around with it at 2:00 am instead of sleeping. I want her to ask me to fix it.

Like this one time, or actually twice, although truly I have no idea how you do this once, she made it so the screen was so magnified you couldn't really see more than a couple letters at a time. And also, you had to double tap everything. And then the phone spoke the letters.

If you didn't double tap, you couldn't get anywhere. And it was too magnified to scroll.

Being that everything was so magnified, and it took a while for Nick to figure out that you had to double tap, it took quite a frustrating while to even navigate to settings to reverse it.

But when she did it the second time, oh, I knew.


I wish she were sitting in the kitchen listening to a random and stupid video commercial that she happeend to click on and had no idea how to stop or navigate away from, so I could ask her to please turn it off.

I wish she were upstairs listening to her television too loud.

I wish she were playing piano, which makes Wanda howl, which then made my mom pause to tell Wanda sincerely and sweetly to stop. And Wanda would stop as long as my mom paused, but as soon as she resumed, Wanda would commence howling.

And this situation could continue on a loop for longer than one might imagine.

I want her to tell me that her email has completely disappeared and can I please look at her computer. Because it was right there and now, suddenly, it's not.

I want to organize every week around taking her to her appointments, even though I felt inconvenienced by the amount of time this required.

I want to count out all her medications and put them in those little week by week boxes. Even though up to a month ago, I'd much rather have been spending the time doing something else.

I want to fill up water jars and put lids on and straws in them and hand them to her and cajole/harass her into drinking enough.

Even though I was often like, why do I have to do this? Why can't she just drink enough water?

Obviously, I didn't actually have to do it. But being me, I had to.

I want to bug her to eat vegetables, and ultimately chop up a whole bunch and make a good salad even though I hate making salad and often felt resentful, because it seemed like I was more invested in her eating well than she was.

I wish she'd open a second container of something that we already had one of open, just because she couldn't find the first one so she figured it was gone. 

I wish she'd insist we had no more maple syrup and then I'd go find another one in the pantry and open it only to later find a nearly full container in the fridge.

I wish for so many things that I'd never anticipated dealing with or taking on in the first place.

I just miss my mama.


I know I did a lot of things for her, but what I keep thinking of are all the things I didn't do to make her life happier. 

I know I had a lot of time with her, particularly as so many people live far from their parents.

But isn't this how it is with people we love? You always want more time.


On Saturday, I realized it had been a month since she fell and that marked a month since our last normal day. Whatever that means.

Anyway, the last day my family was all together.

We were five, and now we're four.

Jordan's been on a school trip, so this past week we've been three.


Today I took India to the pool, and I was chatting with strangers from Atlanta about the pandemic, and online schooling, and what a weird time it was. I mentioned my mom.

It's the first time I've talked about my mom living with us in past tense. I think I said she was living with us then.

So it was open to interpretation. 

Maybe she lived with us in Covid and then went back home to wherever she normally lived.

Or maybe she bought a flat in Paris. She now has pain au chocolat and cafe au lait every day, and shops at Galleries Lafayette.

Maybe she packed her bags and headed for Australia. 

Maybe in the multiverse, in versions where my dad is still alive, she's done all of these things and more.

I hope so.