Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Year 1: How I wish, how I wish you were here

Dear Mama,

Yesterday last year I thought you would come home from the hospital.

Today last year, very early in the morning, you were admitted to the ICU.

And it became increasingly clear that you would not.

Yesterday last year was Mother's Day, and it was terrible.

Mother's Day this year was brutal. 

Sarah posted this poem for Candy, and it resonated so deeply.

Since you left, I've felt, I don't know, less in this world. And after I read this, I realized that what I felt was untethered. 

Not homeless exactly. Not quite lost.

But kind of.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the calculations I started doing were about my kids.

I love my life, but the math was like this: if I have 10 more years, the kids will at least be in their 20s. 20 more, and that will get them to their 30s. And so forth, by 10s.

I was 53, and still, I wasn't ready to lose my mom. I needed you. I still need you.

I feel like so much of what made me me was connected to you. 

I'm not suggesting this is how it is for my kids. But I do know that people go on needing their moms, and I want to be here for them for as long as I can be.

You were gone, and suddenly, I wasn't a daughter. 

I wasn't your caretaker. Your advocate. Your protector.

I wasn't the fittest person you knew. Or the funniest person you knew. Your favorite writer.

Your anything.

I was just me. Without you.

My calendar was suddenly wide open, because I would no longer drive you to Sibley every other week, swearing at other drivers and making you laugh.

You were my first home. And because we moved so much, our family, rather than a specific location, was my home.

You were my first home, and our house was your last home. 

When I feel very sad, like today, I try to remind myself that you had a comfortable and loving home with us. And you were so, so loved.

One year ago on this date, while you were firmly physically affixed to your hospital bed, I saw you recede as the day wore on. You were just less and less there.

The only thing I feel good about is that you made the choice. When we asked you if you wanted further intervention, and you said no, and we asked you if you knew what your decision meant—and you so clearly did—you didn't hesitate.

The fact that it's the same day Dad left us, now 15 years ago, underlines for me that it was your choice.

Not a coincidence.

At some point too many of your systems were failing, and rather than fight the inevitable, you decided you were done with your tiny, frail earthly body. You were done with the pain. You were already more there than here, wherever there is.

You know, the doctors told us that it could be hours, or it could be days. They said once they stop intervention, you don't actually know what people are going to do, how long they will live.

But you'd made your decision, and you left.

By this time tonight, last year, you'd left us, and, after our allotted two hours, we left you. By this time Nick and I had come home, and India had met us at the back door, asking, why, WHY did we have Nana's things?

And then she knew. 

Recently she said she didn't know when she hugged you in the hospital, it was going to be for the last time. When she said goodbye to you, it was going to be the last one.

It's true that you know first times, but last times can sneak up on you. 

Leaving that hospital room was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Even though you weren't there anymore. I was holding your hand, and one moment you were there, and the next, you were gone.

Where'd you go?

This morning, I got my annual text from my friend Vik, saying *hugs*. May 15 has been a hard date for me for the last 15 years.

Losing Dad was devastating. For a long time, I think it was impossible to separate the loss of him from the trauma of the circumstances.

He'd disappeared so many times, but this time, it was somehow forever. How was that possible?

But of course I'd thought about a world without Dad in it, because I'd been confronted with the possibility. The likelihood.

Losing Dad was horrendously painful. But my world without you in it was unimaginable.

I loved you and Dad equally, but differently. You, you were always my safe harbor. The side of the bed I'd run to when I had a bad dream. The person I'd call heartbroken and sobbing, well into my 30s.

The person who loved me most in the whole entire world. 

I remember you saying you loved going home to Grandma Lillian's, because you were never judged. And it's everything to be loved unconditionally. 

How many people love us this way?

When you decided, it didn't feel like you were scared at all. You were relieved. You were tired, and you were ready.

Our friend Alexa, who was checking in on you energetically throughout the day, texted me to say your hospital room was full of loved ones. She didn't know you were leaving then, but she knew who was there waiting for you.

And then you were gone.

And I coudln't believe it. I mean, I was there. I saw it. But how did I suddenly not have my mom anymore?

I know this is all about me, because you're fine; it's the people left behind who hurt and hurt.

It's a terrible club to be in, this one. My motherless friends know. It's different, and it's awful.

I've survived a year that I couldn't actually imagine surviving.

I have to admit that I don't remember large chunks of last year. Kind of like how I don't remember much of college. I know facts, I made friends, but there are big blank spaces. I'm not searching for them.

Anyway, here we are. It's been a year.

I love you and I miss you and I miss you and I miss you.



Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Do not go gentle into that Teams meeting

Every Christmas of my childhood and beyond, we listened to a record of Dylan Thomas reading "A Child's Christmas in Wales." 

It's a short and charming tale, if you're not familiar with it, and the way he reads it is marvelous.

But some Christmas Days, probably at the surly teenage ages and up, we just wanted to read our new books or play with our new toys or just retreat to our corners and not all sit in the living room together next to the record player hearing each other breathe.

Did we eventually have it on tape? CD? We must have. I just found it on YouTube.

Christmases were hard for my dad, and he was always melancholy, but because we weren't allowed to talk about it I don't know if it was family trauma, or abuse by Catholic priests when he was an altar boy, or Vietnam, or seasonal depression or regular depression or possibly bipolar disorder. 

I feel the weight of these less and less as I heal, but so often I have questions I'd like to ask...and there's nobody to ask.

My Uncle Jack passed away a few weeks ago. He was the last of that generation on both sides of the family, for me. 

I didn't know him growing up, but I'd gotten to know him a little as an adult. Donna, his partner after his wife passed away, was a dear childhood friend of my dad's, and they and my parents would get together.

A year or two before my dad died, he and Donna decided to go skydiving. Something he'd always wanted to do. He was delighted to have a partner with equal enthusiasm.

My mom and Uncle Jack stayed on the ground, while Dad and Donna soared.

But losing Jack felt like losing my mom all over again. She was the only person in my family who would keenly feel this loss.

Grief is endlessly surprising.

Anyway, from teen years to medicated years, for ol' Dylan Thomas, I was fully in the throes of seasonal affective disorderexcept when we had Christmases south of the equator in heat and sunshine, which in my opinion is the way to go.

So surely I was rage raging against the dying of the light and it had nothing to do with my family or Thomaswho I adore as a poet and storyteller and as such, feel a little guilty for bastardizing his beautiful lines.

But clearly not guilty enough!

I don't know much of anything about the Welsh, except that Wales looks so beautiful and Fiona studied there and the Welsh were very fierce though unsuccessful in their uprisings. 

And also, after watching Doc Martin, I really want to go to Cornwall.

If you like the British murder villages but get tired of death, I highly recommend Doc Martin. 

I do realize they're not interchangeable. But apparently the Cornish were problematically fierce for the English as well.

Anyway, the main point of this story is that I had to be on a Teams meeting with Jordan's school.

Microsoft Teams hates me. The feeling is mutual.

If I try to attend on my phone, it says I have to download the app. But I deleted the app, because I never had the correct login information. So I thought I could get around it by getting rid of it.


It knows that you're on a phone, and you can just go to the app store. So it's like, bitch, get the app and then come talk to me.

So now I make sure I'm on a laptop. But it has to be my mom's laptop, because the sound on mine is broken.

So I logged in 45 minutes ahead, just so that I knew I could. Like getting to your gate at the airport to make sure it's there, and then you can get a snack and use the bathroom.

Teams meetings derail my entire day up to the point where I successfully (or not) connect.

When we had meetings with India's teachers, I did everything right—right time, right laptop, right linkexcept it was a link for a teacher whose class she no longer has.

So then Nick called and I said, "I went to the fucking link they sent us but it's a link to the Chinese teacher and why do we fucking have to use fucking Teams I hate Teams so fucking much..."

And he said, "Dear, we've started the conference and I've got you on speaker, and two of India's teachers are on the line."

I apologized profusely for the profanity. They both laughed (I think) and said no children were present.

Apparently a couple minutes before they'd asked if they should wait for me to start the conference and Nick said the odds were I was struggling with Teams, and I'd be along shortly swearing about the platform. 

Which just confirms what I've long believed: people don't change as they age. 

They just become more so.

This was, you understand, prior to my Tabarnac Era. Also, my friend Brian recently reminded me of my interest in "What the Dickens?"

But Teams gets the full extent of my profane wrath.

Which is to say that on the whole I'm fine, and in this photo, I was in Puerto Rico with my children for spring break.

The day we got there, I was inhaling humid tropical air, and reveling in the foliage of my childhood. Bougainvillea always makes me happy.

Sometimes I think things but am not sure if I said them out loud, and so I ask if I said something out loud and people will tell me I did or didn't.

But in this case, I said, "When you guys are gone, I'm moving to the tropics." And my kids were all, WHAT? 

And I was all, oh did I say that out loud?

I said it out loud.

And so then I was like, OK, not really, haha I just love tropical weather. 

And now it's 90 in DC, thank goodness, because I was pretty sure it was going to be cold here for the rest of my born days.

All good. Carry on.

Just don't make me attend a Teams meeting.