This Tuesday marks the 28th anniversary of my Daddy’s death. In one week, it will be my Mama’s birthday. She would have been seventy-five. I am now thirty-four–a number I still can’t wrap my head around…mostly because it feels impossibly old and I wonder where all those days went.
I had one of those moments yesterday where you’re going along in life, and you’re feeling pretty good. And then, you notice something–which makes you notice something else…and then…BAM…your heart affixes to that sleeve and your eyes well up with tears and, suddenly, you’re laughing. Partially because you’re proud of yourself. Partially because life continues to be completely surprising. And partially because you still can’t believe any of it.
My roommate had gone to the store. He had picked up food for the week. I had decided to bake this weekend. Loads of cookies, like my grandma used to, and some brownies. I had decided to make lasagna–without noodles–so J could actually eat, too. He had also picked up all kinds of Christmas things. And a whole bunch of essential oils and flower essences and supplements. Only I wasn’t feeling so good today, so I decided to postpone plans. I’ve been feeling kinda crappy, physically, for a few days. My bio degree and interest in alternative medicine led me to take some supplements, which really helped me. But now I seem to have a sinus infection. And earlier today, I had discussed going on something called a Virgin Diet because I’ve been feeling so crappy and have felt like my diet might be causing these things. So, come January (maybe sooner), I’m going to give up 7 foods (including my beloved cheese, gluten, and sugar) for 3 weeks. I bumped into the diet accidentally–by channel-surfing….and I heard some bio-geek word that got me to listen. It’s pretty much an elimination diet, but very similar to Paleo–only a little more sensible (IMO) because it doesn’t dismiss all grains. My roomie has been doing Paleo for just a handful of months and has lost over 50 pounds–without any sense of real deprivation–or any huge commitment to exercise (though he moves more). My goal is less about weight loss and more about feeling better. Because feeling like you’re always sick is just not okay.
The whole thing made me do a doubletake for a minute.
Friends have made comments here and there this year. Things like–“who are you, and what have you done with Alma?”
While I haven’t gone Paleo, I have made a concerted effort to eat better this year. Mostly because eating the way I used to was causing me some problems. I guess I thought these problems were just part of getting older. As I ate better, I felt like I was actually investing in myself–actually nourishing myself in ways I never gave myself permission to do in the past. I didn’t even blink at the sticker shock of going mostly organic. Farmers markets became our weekend ritual.
Despite these changes, I still feel really tired. I still deal with awful pain after eating foods I’m sensitive to. I feel like I’ve been on some sort of weird roller coaster.
So, I’m really hopeful that I’ll finally get a handle on something I’ve pretty much battled my whole life.
But, as I was watering the bathroom poinsettia, I had kind of a full-circle moment. While I have often said I change every single day, the accumulation of those small changes…of being that little girl from Westwood who didn’t really understand a lot of things to being the person I am today–well, it’s almost like I’m someone else. But, then, I laughed because I realized I still have cherry frosting in my pantry (mostly for nostalgic reasons). How ghetto is that?
As much as I have changed, I’m still me. But I guess, last night, I wondered what my Mama would think of all of this. For the most part, every part of the girl she knew has morphed into something else. She never really had the chance to know adult Alma.
A few years ago, just after Mama died, I was walking in Cheesman, and–swear to God–ran into a woman who looked just like my Mama. Only she was willingly walking in the park, for exercise, which my Mama probably would never do. It was one of those surreal, pinch-me-I’m-dreaming moments that happens to people who are grieving. These are moments of wonder, but they are also full of extreme gut punches when you realize that the lady you just saw…well, she just has a really striking face. And that face is not hers. And she disappears as easily as she appeared. And then, you spend the rest of the day chasing her. And chasing some thing that died that day.
Luckily, I haven’t had these moments all that often. They’ve mostly been isolated to dreams, and even those are getting a little easier. It used to be that I’d dream about her for 3 minutes, and I’d spend my day–sometimes even a week–near tears and on the brink of breakdown. Now, I know I dream about her–but sometimes, I don’t remember it. And mostly, it just makes me more contemplative. Sometimes, I even look forward to them. It feels like the difference this past year has been in deciding that it doesn’t have to hurt as much as it’s always hurt. Who knew I had a choice in the matter?
After that whole whoa moment last night, I had another one when the suckerpunch of time invaded my brain, and I realized some sobering statistics. My father has been gone for about 4/5 of my life. My Mama has been gone about 1/4 of my life come Christmas. Losing your parents when your young is full of surprises. But the biggest one is how quickly time slips past us, and how–so often–that time means nothing.
I have survived, somehow, without all the things most people get from their parents. Internalizing that?–it was a moment of inexplicable pride. Because I did this all by myself. Even though I know they were still around, cheering me on, and advising me from some corner of my heart–where they live now. And no one really does anything alone.
I left it there. Didn’t try to absorb it or make it mean much more than what I felt. And went to bed. Only to keep waking up because of stupid gluten. I laid in my bed, and tried to feel better, my mind drifting to all those moments where Mama took care of me.
I thought of my life now and how bizarre it is sometimes. And I settled into a truth that made me smile and made any sadness I might feel this week a little easier to carry. Funny how simply acknowledging reality makes it easier to hold.
My Mama would be proud of me–as odd as I am with the ways I’ve changed. She would tell me organic was a waste of time and too expensive. I would intro her to thai food, and though she would insist on the non-spicy/sprout-free versions, she would love it more than I do. I would keep trying to convince her to try sriracha, and I would argue with her that her hatred of sprouts was irrational. She would never be able to say the word quinoa, but she would eat it and actually prefer it to rice and noodles. And I would forever try to help her pronounce it correctly (like Elitches). She would never watch the sunrise or sunset from our roof, but she would watch what she could from our balcony and she would be so amazed that I can actually take photographs and have a fancy camera like a real artist. And I would try to show her that she had a good eye, too. She would scold Rilke when he went nutso an would make sure he got his medicine–kinda just like I do. She would clean our apartment in an afternoon, and I would never be able to comprehend how she did it that fast. She would like Cleo best, mostly because she’s shy and crotchety (and sometimes, I’d agree with her). And she’d probably even eat my lasagna because I make good food. And I would make me really happy to make her her favorite meal–even if it was a little silly. She would not quite understand what I’m studying, but that wouldn’t stop her from telling all her friends about my straight As. I would try to educate her, but would eventually give up when she got to the right ballpark. And she wouldn’t really understand my future career plans, but she’d tell me she believed in me. And that I could always sleep on the couch if it didn’t work out. And that would help me keep going, on days when I’m not sure what the Hell I’m doing. And she would comb my hair as I laid my head on her lap on Christmas Eve–while I listened to her read the Christmas story from the Bible. And I would still feel like I was five years old and anything was possible. And Mamas lived forever because how could someone like her possibly ever die?
It is somewhat comforting to know what would have been–even though it will never be.