goodnight. i love you.
11 years ago, today–around this time in the morning–my Mama was rushed to Denver Health and there was a paramedic in my doorway.
Some moments stand still in time and redefine every part of your life. They mark the tightrope between before and after–between the old you and the new you.
And nothing is ever the same again.
It’s hard to believe this year begins my 2nd (!) decade of life without my mother. Especially because I never ever imagined a life without my mother. Had you told me when I was 24 that my mother would disappear from the Earth two years later, I would have punched you in the face.
It was impossible to fathom a life without that little lady in it.
We had a complicated relationship. A difficult relationship. An amazing relationship. Full of secrets. Full of unspoken crap. But–to this day–no one has ever loved me like she did. And I’ve never loved anyone more. I think of her every single day. Every single day. And there’s not even one part of my life that hasn’t been redefined ten times over by her loss.
I say these things and it sounds like I’ve accepted it. But the truth is that’s a messy process. One I’m still evolving with. Parts of me still expect her to walk in my door and start vacuuming. Parts of me still expect that she’s just smoking on the porch. Parts of me will, honestly, never acknowledge she’s gone. And that’s alright.
It has to be.
I haven’t been as sad as I normally am, this time of year, lately. I’ve been emotional, but with good cause.
There seems to be an unconscious thing happening this year. I call it healing. Because I think it is.
Last night, I had a difficult conversation that went better than expected and cleared some of the gunk that’s been ruining my days lately. Then, I cooked. Made my mother’s favorite meal–only my way–and started it in the crockpot. I may have had some wine. I don’t drink often anymore. I just felt like it.
I’ve always felt my father nearby. I talk to him often. I yell at him when my keys go missing. I thank him when I have good luck. But Mama–I don’t think I’ve ever said one thing to her since. She’s gone. At least, it’s felt that way.
Last night, I realized I was making my mother’s food. I didn’t actually connect the significance of that to anything. I just noted it. I hadn’t planned it. It just worked out that way. A small way of honoring her. Comfort food at its finest. I didn’t have to think about it. It just happened.
At midnight, I went to get some water and the weight of today hit me. In that moment, I decided I wanted to talk to my mother.
I felt silly.
Talking to myself. Like a crazy lady.
But okay. Someone told me once that–just because my mother is dead–it didn’t have to stop there. We could still have a relationship.
When I was little, and even into adulthood, every single day–I’d come home (or call her) and tell my mother about my day.
The only time that stopped was when she got sick until she died. She was in the hospital many of those days, and I didn’t want her to worry. I didn’t want her to know I fought with the insurance company. Or that my ex and I were fighting. Or that I went running at 3 am because I didn’t want to feel anything.
I think I miss that the most. It was how I was able to process my life. I sometimes still do it with friends–I’m sure–to their utter boredom. But I don’t really know how I feel about anything until I do that.
At the end of every day, I told my mother–“goodnight. I love you.” That never changed. I told her that the day before she died. Though I didn’t sleep that night.
So, I decided to tell her about my day. To tell her about the stupid crap my client pulled yesterday morning. To tell her about how mad I was. To tell her about how it was better. That I didn’t fix it, but I was brave. I told her about my life now. Like long lost friends catching up. Only she didn’t answer.
And I sobbed.
And blew my nose.
And apologized. A lot. For not being there. For being mean. For hanging out with a dumb boy who didn’t love me enough. For settling. For stalling. For not being the girl she believed in.
And I promised to talk to her tomorrow. And I promised to be a better person. And I promised to live a life that matters–for her and me. I promised to make it count.
And then, I said, “Goodnight. I love you.”
I’m realizing that my mother is with me, every day, whether I feel her or not. Our relationship didn’t end. It just changed. And it’s taken me 11 years to accept that reality. To acknowledge that she doesn’t have to be haunting me to be here.
Today, it’s gloomy and cold. My mother loved these days. She would make the meal that’s in my crockpot–albeit more simply and with less seasoning–and she would probably be sitting on the porch. She’d probably be talking to some small child from the neighborhood or pulling weeds, smoking her 1/4 of a cigarette before letting it air out. Smiling at that gloomy sky and wishing it’d snow.
Today, it feels like she’s hugging me. The emotions come and go. I breathe deep to find my way through it. I let all of it pass through. I don’t hold on to them like always–hoping to keep her with me in my pain. I’m good to myself and give myself room. I let myself be.
I breathe. Like my life depends on it.
And it’s odd. I feel so loved.