I’m writing a series this week to fill in some of the gaps in my story that I love the most but have sometimes blogged about the least. So far we’ve covered:
Losing a mother doesn’t happen in a moment. It takes years to realize what’s gone.
It takes missed birthdays and graduations and weddings and then your first baby is born and she isn’t there for it.
You can wake up one day and discover you’re 39 and all you want for your birthday is your mom. The person who’s obligated to love you. The person who has to care about your bad hair days and your worries about your son’s bowel movements. The person who must care about every particular detail about how your daughter ate the beans and rice and how you couldn’t believe it after how picky your sons were.
The one person in the world who cares about you more than you care about you.
That person has been missing from my life since one week after I turned 18.
But she was gone and in hospital from the time I was sixteen.
We never talked about sex or marriage or what love feels like. She never told me her childbirth stories or her secret dreams. I never got to see the inside version of her, only the parental perspective. She was the mom and I was the daughter. We were never just two women together talking about life.
And anyone who’s lost a mother – whether she was emotionally unavailable or left or died like mine did – they know that the ache never goes away. Some days it’s hardly noticeably and others it comes roaring back at the most unexpected moments.
Zoe lies in bed next to me and strokes my cheek with her tiny hand, three of the five fingernails painted bright purple. And she whispers, “I so glad you back, mama.” And the stab in my rib cage is so violent that I have to hold onto her tiny hand like a life preserver for all this homesick missing of my own mother.
Lots of those feelings are better tucked up neat and tidy into a box in the spare bedroom where they feel more distant and I feel more immune. And most days being a mother means you’re just hanging on for dear life as the ride bumps and batters you along. There’s hardly a moment for a hot meal, let alone deep introspection about what it’s like to mother without a mother.
But some days, when I want to make sense of my story and the story I’m writing for my kids I go and sit with that box.
I slowly peel back the tape and unfold the corners and look down into what I’ve lost. I let myself feel it. I just sit there and let myself feel my feelings. I might be alone and at home sometimes when it happens. But sometimes it’s when I’m in the car, other days I might just be hanging out at the Swiss Bakery tapping away at the computer when the box opens and all those big aches comes out into the open and I let them.
I let the sadness come because it’s part of the beauty. This legacy of a lost mother is part of what’s been crafted into my storyline and I wouldn’t unwrite the after just so I could fix the before.
The after is full of Peter and Michigan and family who’ve adopted me like their own into America and the midwest and Thanksgiving. The after is blazing freaking gorgeous lit up by the lives of Jackson, Micah and Zoe and them I wouldn’t give back. Not for any kind of do-over.
We all live in some version of the after, don’t we?
We all have grown up and become more chipped and cracked along the way. Bits of what we believed or loved cracked off rough shod and thoughtless. And there are holes that no person or putty or promise or chocolate cake can fill. There are some holes that become part of us just like that cowlick that won’t ever lie down and behave or the scar on your left leg from the time you were tripped and fell at your best friend’s house right in front of the boy you were trying to impress.
I see your scars.
I see those hot throbbing lines you try to hide or disguise or ignore.
But they’re all part of you. It’s OK that they ache. It’s OK that they make you feel the feelings you wish you could box away. They are as much you as your eye color and I love looking right into your eyes.
Go ahead, tell me your story. Show me your box. I am not afraid of scars.