Once per year, on April 14, I let myself grieve. As I've gotten older, I've learned to shoulder missing her by not letting myself dwell in the past (because I know it's an unhealthy habit), and, with a few exceptions that usually hit during a hormonal time of the month, I can look at her pictures without my eyes welling up or without getting that sick, helpless punch in the gut that hits when my mind grasps the fact that she's gone, really gone--not just someone I haven't talked to in awhile. I can't live in the past, since it'll cripple my future, and my life is already stressful enough without opening that closet.
But once a year, on the anniversary of the day she died, I let myself revisit that pain. I need to do it. I need to remember what I've missed losing my mom when I was only nine. I need to let those tears that stubbornly appear at times have their way.
I need to know that it still hurts, because if it still hurts, then I know I still remember her--not just the idea of her.
I need to acknowledge that day, eighteen years ago, when I lost my innocence and grew up in a moment--that day that formed the course of the rest of my life.
I'm 27 years old now, and she's been gone for eighteen years. Two-thirds of my life. A child born the moment she left the world became legally an adult today. While in many ways, it's been a long time, in many others, it's inconceivable that she can have been gone that long.
I've got to grieve or lose my mind. I've got to grieve, miss her, relive that moment when Mom and Dad showed up at the door of my third grade classroom and Mrs. Porter embraced my crying mother. I knew then, but I didn't want to believe it; "I've got a bad feeling about this," I whispered to myself.
An April 14 that dawns with sunshine and warm spring breezes feels like a potshot at what that day means to me. The storms that are forecasted for tonight suit me more. It's my dark day. I hate having to go in to work and teach with a peppy demeanor like it's just another day, because to me, it can never be just another day. I've written on here before about how growing up overnight caused me to cling all the tighter to the remaining bits of childhood and magic that still survived and why, in many other ways, as a result, I waited longer than normal to grow up.
I waited until evening to let myself think about it. I knew that once I started, I wouldn't be able to stop the rest of the day. Now, here I sit, trying to find the words to express what this grief means to me a year later, a year older, a year different in so much of how I see the world.
Mothers, write to your children--write letters, record video messages, record your voice talking to them. Don't let the awkwardness of doing that keep you from it. Mine hesitated--afraid our mutual mom would end up listening to a message meant only for me--and so all I have are stories from others who knew her better (as an adult), a tape-letter to a friend, a short-lived diary, a few video clips from home videos, and some continually fading memories. It's not the same.
I could continue rambling, but another early morning means cutting this year's indulgence short at a mere half hour. Perhaps tomorrow night I'll revisit these thoughts without the pressure to maintain a schedule. I do think, though, I'll fit in a little cry before going to sleep. It'll do me good--more good than any well-meant platitude, because I know I don't grieve for her, but for my own loss.
And, in keeping with the way our time together got cut short, so too does this, or any other similar, entry end unsatisfactorily. It's symbolic, I guess. After all, are we ever really ready to say good-bye?