We're at family camp on Moose Pond in Maine, one of my happy places on this green earth.
This is my first birthday without my mom in my world.
In two days, she'll have been gone three months.
This is, apparently, half the lifespan of an adult dragonfly. And one to two months longer than the life of an average worker bee.
I don't know what average dragonflies or worker bees are like.
Average, I guess. I mean, what are exceptional ones like?
But three months is a tremendously short time in the grieving process.
And on a side bar, we stopped into the Honey Exchange while we were cat sitting for my dear friend Pam in Portland. We were enchanted. We watched bees in a hive with a glass side. We discussed beekeeping and tasted freshly-de-hived honey.
Being me, I left determined to become an urban beekeeper upon return to DC.
Which is how I am. Sometimes the endless topic is rabies, sometimes it's killer gees. Right now it's honeybees.
When their queen dies, they pick a hearty little bee and start feeding it royal jelly and it grows and becomes the new queen.
Also! If the queen is mean--like if you have a hive of really aggressive bees--her daughters will be, too. So if you're going to bee keep, you want to research and get a hive of gentle bees.
But listen to this! You can change the temperament of a hive by switching the queen.
But you have to monitor, because sometimes when you put in a new gentle queen, the mean former queen's daughters will kill the new queen and make their own.
It's very fairy tale, isn't it? Or maybe real life in olden days.
But back to my birthday.
Shortly after my mom left us, and the hospital staff came in to turn off the monitors and express condolences, I told my brother we were orphans.
Orphans may sound rather young and war-torn, or sooty and Victorian, and as my brother said, I don't know that we actually qualify as orphans as adults.
But immediately, I was no longer anybody's child.
My entire identity changed the instant my mom's heart stopped beating.
I was always her kid, her girl, her, well, her anything. Hers.
I don't know if I'd have thought so much about it this way, except that my kids are mine. My girl. My boy. Pieces of my heart, actually each somehow my entire heart, walking around outside my body.
But always my babies.
And even though I was bigger and stronger than my mom, and I did so many things for her because they had become too hard or in some cases impossible for her, she was always my mama.
When I got sick, she'd bring me ginger ale. She would baby me.
When I was a kid, when the biggest number I knew was five, I would tell her I loved her five. FIVE. The most imaginable.
And she would say, "I love you more."
That's what she would say to me up to the end. I'd say, "I love you," and she'd say, "I love you more."
I would hear India and her saying that back and forth. "I love you more."
Who doesn't want to be loved more than the most imaginable?
Mother's day was, in my mind, about my mom. Yes, we shared it, but for me, it was about her.
And now I'm the mom. The Mom.
It's weird to suddenly have no parents. To be the parent, with nobody who preceded you in parenthood in your family.
I used to have someone to ask. And now I don't.
I recently wore an Indian silk outfit that was my mom's in the 70s, that she'd given to me years ago. I was trying to figure out if I could hand wash it, or if it had to be dry cleaned. My first thought was to ask my mom.
So I dropped it off at the dry cleaner, just to be safe.
At family camp, we see people we haven't seen since last August. We ask each other how our year has been.
For me, my year was pretty great. Until April.
And then it was the worst year of my life.
I can now talk about my mom without crying about 50% of the time. If you catch me off guard, or in a low moment, then all bets are off.
I've teared up in the dining hall, on a mountain hike, at the lake.
But I'm not like I was, weeping on a brand new acquaintance who I didn't yet know would become a dear friend at baggage claim.
I've gotten lots of hugs, because I have a lot of friends here, even if they're annual friends. It's a wonderful community.
So it's been a weird year. I'd have said the year from 53-54 was quite good, because mostly, it was. But then when you have the worst thing in your entire life happen in that year, it kind of dominates.
And now, whether it's grief brain or menopause--which everyone, by the way, should be talking about, because it's going to happen to over half our planet at some point--I don't actually remember much prior to May.
Thanks to conversations with my friend Fiona, I'm booked to see an HRT specialist in September. Assuming my boob scan next week is clear.
If so, and I fervently hope it is, maybe hormones could improve my memory. Or my persistent hip pain. Or my patience. Or a plethora of things I had no idea were depleted hormone-related.
Yesterday we hiked Pleasant Mountain with a group from camp, and one of the counselors said he was talking to Jordan early in the season, when they'd had rain for days and Jordan was low and tremendously homesick.
He asked Jordan how he was doing, and Jordan said, "I miss my mom." He was incredibly sad.
And this lovely guy said, "I"m 23, and I got all teared up. And Jordan asked me why I was crying, and I said, I miss my mom, too."
And I guess that's how it is.
I'm OK. I'm doing well, actually, all things considering. Sometimes I'm doing great. I'm happy and filled with gratitute.
And hey, I've way outlived every worker bee and firefly that's ever been born.
I feel blessed to be here, in such a beautiful place, with people I love so much.
I'm joyful and devastated, loving and loved.
I'm 54, and I miss my mom.