I realized the day after writing my last post, WTF is up with me?, exactly what was wrong with me: it’s January.
Over the years, it has become a month full of emotional landmines, one right after the other. My son LT has flown back to his father’s, the 5th is the anniversary of the death of a dear friend and also the birthday of Chooch’s deceased brother, the anniversary of my mother’s death from breast cancer, and my son’s 15th birthday (won’t get to celebrate with him this year either, thanks to finances) is in a week.
It was six years ago, also a Friday the 13th, that my brother called me and said the words I had feared hearing since her first occurrence of breast cancer in 1991.
I was fresh from the shower, rushing around and getting dressed to stay with my Mom so my brother could go home and sleep after spending the night with her. We knew she was near the end of her life and in clear moments she knew it and was scared. We never left her alone. It was bittersweet that she spent less and less time clear of mind as the cancer had spread into her skull and brain.
I was half-dressed and rushing to the kitchen to make a PB&J to eat in the car on the way to the hospital. I didn’t have a scheduled time to get there, in fact, in hindsight I’m no even sure I was expected that morning. I just felt an urgency to get to her as quickly as I could, waking hours before my alarm was set and bolting out of bed.
The phone rang and I immediately collapsed to my knees mid-stride and started crying and praying. My husband woke up instantly, which never happens, and answered the phone. He then came to find me and wrapped his arms around me on the dining room floor, telling me that she was gone, crying just as hard as I was. (I now have a begrudging smile, because I again recognize that there are no two other arms on this planet that she would want comforting me more than my husband’s. She adored him on sight.)
I knew what the call was (why else would the phone ring at 6:30 am) and immediately went from praying for her release from the horror of her life to begging for her to come back because I wasn’t ready to be without her. I needed her to teach me more, to make me a stronger woman. The kind of woman that could lift a burden from the heart of my children the way she could do for mine. Tirelessly and full of unconditional love. And I mean unconditional, because I was not an easy person to parent. I frequently rebelled, still do, even against myself. But I still needed her and suddenly was unable to imagine life without her presence.
Shortly thereafter, I reflected that to be in the room where your Mother is and know that this body, the one that you had been pampering, comforting and consoling, is no longer your Mother… well, it is the strangest bit of surrealism that I have ever experienced. My Mother was literally 2 feet away from me, but she was no where to be found. Still, I couldn’t help tucking the blankets around her feet as I always did, because they were always cold. I felt a fool when I realized what I was doing, but no one mocked me. Hell, wrapped as deep as they were in their own grief, they probably didn’t even notice.
So the subconscious knowledge that this day was coming, along with all the other anniversaries, good and bad, are what I believe to be my huge sense of being swallowed in negativity. In talking with my therapist about the dates mentioned above, the excruciating negotiation process in selling our home, an devastating ongoing family crisis that I am not free to discuss here (we are fine), frantically packing and selling everything we own without sentimental value in preparation for downsizing to a smaller living space, having a near-death experience with Kaylee and missing another birthday of my son’s – these have all managed to make this a real crapper of a month to get through after the stress of Christmas.
Happily, we have no fewer than four loved ones born in January to celebrate. And we got to ring in the New Year with people that rejuvenate us. Moving forward we also have the unexpected joy of taking part in the daily lives of powerfully close friends, and by extension, two beautiful young girls. This includes watching a dance recital for 3 and 4 year olds that was so magically rejuvenating that I could feel the weight of sadness falling off of me in chunks as we giggled and cheered their performances. I told their father that I wished for a pill that could impart what we were feeling as we watched these vibrant little spirits dance and twirl in front of us. Nearly all of the adults to a one were shiny-eyed watching not only their child, but also being charmed by the other girls, all of them working so hard to be brave with such nervousness and barely controlled frenetic energy. I found that it filled my heart containers to over-flowing and used the memory of the two sisters dancing together to pull me out of a panic attack the next day. The memory is truly powerful and medicinal to this old girl.
The highs and lows of this month, in addition to new health issues for myself and for my husband (we’re fine), have me both hiding and clinging to the people that give me strength, whether we talk about the hard things or the good things going on in each other’s lives. It’s just the being with them, the contact with them, that soothes.
I will go to Arlington Cemetery to take my Mom flowers and will return home to work on the book I am creating in her honor. I will survive the emotional landmines of January as the tough chick she raised me to be. And I will take time to revel in the joyful moments that occur along the way, exactly as she raised me to do.
I will love you forever, Pocket Mom!