Are you there?

One night I called you. You answered, but your voice was faint and distant. Then I woke -up.

Your son reports the basement light is always on when he goes in the house. He triple checks that it’s off before he leaves.

Your favorite neighbor discovered a white moth in her house. She carried it outdoors and let it find its way. Back across the road, perhaps?

The other day was really rough – my heart hurt as if it would explode, and I just couldn’t stop crying. “Take care of yourself.” So I did all the things one should.

Your friends told me how you thought I was so strong, and I would always be alright. I am resilient, but right now I don’t feel alright. I feel so, so sad, and I miss you.

Crying Aloud

She cried easily – at every harsh word, every slap, every hit, every slight.

I watched and learned that crying made him rage more intensely. “I’ll give you a reason to cry!” when the baby wailed as his mother whimpered and sobbed.

I watched, and learned.

No one would make or see me cry.

Except Lassie. Family tv night I cried silently- great crocodile tears rolled down my cheeks as Lassie faced death. He laughed.

A child alone, I cried as I read, as I feared a future trapped in that world, as I contemplated life knowing I was unlovable.

An adult, I usually cried only in the arms of alcohol, or a silly show. Lovers who witnessed my tears, who held and consoled me, they inevitably left; I knew I was unlovable.

So this lifetime of guarded tears ran full-tilt into the pain of a parent’s death, and is crashing upon me. Tears strangle in a flurry of everyday minutiae. Driving. Seeing her things. That damn dog. And 8:36 pm.

Once again, alone and crying aloud.

St. Paddy’s Day

Just two years ago you were fretting over the corned beef being salty, timing the side dishes, and questioning if the table was set properly.

Mrs. G. came over this afternoon “because I thought you might be lonely.” Jules and Diz called to make sure I’m okay. Remember her mom / last parent died just 6 months ago, so she understands.

I’m sad. I miss talking to you – swapping updates re the daffodils, Milo’s antics, whatever trivia drifts into the conversation.

Time to myself and Jameson’s might have been ill -considered. But at some point I just need to feel the feels, cry, and all the things, or so I’ve heard.

I’m sorry for all the times I disappointed or hurt you. I wonder if you knew you were loved.

Then again, our family was never very loving. (And then there was that time that y’all disowned me.) Consequently, I never trusted that anyone loved me, and experience has cemented that distrust.

I need to make a schedule and stick with it. Feel as if am more scattered than ever, and worry that I’m going under. Today I thought of drinking until I could sleep a dreamless sleep, of calling out from work tomorrow, of just shutting down everything for a day.

But I’m afraid that there will be no reboot,that icon will spin endlessly. That one day will blur into multiple days, without return.

Instead, will throw another log on, tap out a few more emotions to drift without witnesses or words, and pretend that I’m good. All better. No worries.

No one’s left; I can play my role.

Still counting…

One year ago you came home from the hospital with an oxygen canister, and your world was forever changed.

Signs in the windows Oxygen In Use.

Cannula in place and tubing trailing every step.

Three mile walks memories, even the trek to the mailbox later exceeded your ability.

Travels slowed then ended – it was just too much.

Two weeks, 48 hours, 2 minutes.

4. Dear Mom,

The sun was out today, but it was still chilly. Lately, I just can’t get warm – even by the fire. That happens when I’m really sad.

I missed our visits here this past year. Know that you loathed being tethered to the oxygen compressor, and hated that you couldn’t pass the test for something more portable. Practicing for your breathing test in hopes of qualifying for freedom, you would purposefully march around the house, and to the mailbox – until you just couldn’t anymore. “My legs go, but I run out of puff.”

Made a copy of your death certificate today. Stupid things companies need to turn off cable.

I really miss talking to you, hearing about the ladies at the new digs, how Aunt MG is doing, and all the goofy stuff.

Adulting sucks.

Love ya.

2.Dear Mom,

It’s Monday, and I didn’t see you this weekend. Somehow, that makes everything harder. I thought about driving by your grave, but couldn’t. Not yet.

I don’t know who to talk to about just stuff. People offer to listen, but you never know if they really mean it. “You can talk to me” loses its meaning when every little thing becomes a point of contention. And all of the hurts, the slights, the ugly things from others are amplified right now. I wonder if this is how it will always be, or a time-limited response to grief. Am probably best off away from people.

I want to smile back at those who act kindly, show my gratitude for their efforts, but apparently am falling short. And those who repeatedly ask “Are you alright?” Just. Stop. No, I’m not alright. No, I’m not going to smile with enthusiasm so you feel comfortable. Right now, all of my energy is in trying to keep my head above water. How many times do I need to use my words?

“Checking in” – that works for me as I feel no expectations. Texts and phone calls are good for can opt out if falling apart. Face to face suffocates me. I know intentions are good, but isn’t the anxiety obvious? And why is it assumed that things are better with people right there? Clearly, I am no good communicating.

So, here I sit, grateful for the relative quiet and peace of work. Earlier, kiddos were running and playing outside. Before me stacks of work demand attention, but I’m thinking about the day and what I would tell you on the way home – the card from one of my old schools, how M was so proud she made a star on her own, the huge smile and hug from T when he saw me, and pictures the littles made for me.

I know that your son has always been your #1, and you said that to me just a few months ago. The words spoken aloud hurt; I won’t lie. So yes, I definitely understand that I am less important, and am oh-so familiar with that role. However, think you loved me despite my failures to meet your expectations. Think our conversations were usually a welcome interruption of your day. Who knows.

All over the place emotionally. Just feel the feels and keep swimming, Dory. Dreading the drive home.

Love ya.

Dear Mom,

Walking into the ER, as the nurse took us to the conference room, I knew this wasn’t your usual ER visit. The doctor explained what we would see. Your boy put on a brave face, but his hands were shaking. He knew because the ER nurse called and asked our ETA. I had to be strong – for him, for you – but it was hard, just in case you wondered.

The machine was doing compressions on your chest, the tube was in your throat, the monitor lines flat, and the people stood so helpless. I knew this wasn’t your usual ER visit.

I promised you I would trip on the cord. Remember how we would laugh about it before you got really sick? Then, over the past few months, you were more earnest as you reminded me, “You promised. You have the papers.” You always said I would have to do it because your son could not. Innumerable were the times that you stated how different I was from him, how I was harder, I could cope.

Do you have any idea the price I pay for coping? The price of saying aloud, “Stop. Let her go.”

Someone put a chair behind me, “You can sit down.” But I couldn’t, I had to touch your hand, your face, to know that it really was you who I had abandoned on this plane. No, not the usual ER visit.

We were never “Best Friends” like some mothers and daughters. We struggled with our beliefs and opinions – arguing, finding common ground, forging acceptable terms of engagement, doing our best. Sometimes it was good enough, often it wasn’t. But still, we tried.

Yesterday I went to work. What was I thinking? Hmm, maybe that I needed to remove myself from role of grieving daughter? Anyway, you know how you kept me company driving home all these years? Well, the new normal – no phone calls. I miss you already. Most days you were the only person I talked to who wasn’t associated with work. Guess I need to get some friends like yours, eh?

I’m still trying to do right on your behalf. Honor your wishes. Take care of things as you wanted. I’m tired of adulting. I just want to cry someplace safe.

But not tonight. Tonight there is still work to do. And I’m alone, again. Love you, Mom.