Monday, June 30, 2014

1460 Days

Dear Ma,

1460 days ago, we spoke for the last time. Or, rather, it's been that long since I last heard your actual voice in reply. I remember everything about that day. The worst day of my life. And not a day has passed, during these 1460 days, not one day has passed when I haven't thought of you. Maybe even more than before, which is difficult to imagine, given how close we always were.

People say it gets easier. People mean well, but they’re full of shit. It gets different. You get used to it. It never gets easier.

Right now, Ma, I have half a dozen things I wish I could call you and talk to you about, and get your opinions and advice about. Just about every day, I want to pick up the phone and tell you about work stuff. Or ask a question about cooking. Or have a heart-to-heart with you about love and women, and the crazy mess that part of my life has been. I want to compare notes with you about our spinal disease. I want to tell you that the other day I looked at a recent photo of myself and thought for a second it was a photo of you, and that that made me happy. I'm getting a hysterectomy next month. Did you know that? Yes, I suppose you must know, now that you're part of everything. I suppose there's nothing you don't know.

I remember your sad reaction when I was 17, and I told you I would never have children. You loved kids. So did Abuela. It must be where I get that from. It's not that I never wanted them, but that I felt they weren't in the cards for me. This made you sad. Even many years later, when I was in a long-term relationship with a woman I assumed I’d be with for life, and I asked how you would feel if she and I decided to have a baby, your eyes lit up: "What do you mean how would I feel? I'd be happy to have another grandchild. When are you planning on it?" I had to double back and explain it had just been a hypothetical question, we had no such plans, and that my partner didn't care for the idea of parenthood. You looked so disappointed. I don't think I ever got to tell you how very much it meant to me that your reaction had nothing to do with the idea of two women having and raising a baby together, and everything to do with your wanting me to have everything you thought a person should have in life, including love and children. It meant the world to me.

But, of course, I will never have this. The kids, I mean. I won’t have them because I’m 47, and haven’t had them yet, so that ship has sailed. I’ve made choices in life, and now I have to live with them. Still, the finality of having that whole organ removed does bring it all home for me. I wish I could call you and tell you how bummed I am that I never gave you another grandchild. Really, the prospect of having you as a grandmother should have been reason enough for me to bring a child into the world. Like Abuela, you were at your best around children – especially babies.

One thing Lenore and I inherited from you is a great memory. People often doubt me when I say this, but I promise you it’s true: I remember being a baby. I remember what it felt like to be wrapped in your arms as you carried me around. I remember the look on your face when you sang to me at night. I remember being a toddler, and sitting on your feet, facing you and holding your hands as you sat on the couch – the way you’d raise your legs up and lift me off the ground, and how we would both laugh. I remember getting a big gash on my leg when I was three or four years old, and how you picked me up and held me close as your ran up the street to the Methodist Hospital E.R., the blood from my wound dripping down between us. You were crying as you ran with me in your arms, and that puzzled me, because my mother wasn’t afraid of anything. I remember the night Abuela died, how you knew to look for me in the darkness of her rooms and say nothing but, instead, just hold me in your arms as if I were still that wounded four-year-old whose mother could make everything okay, again. I remember everything.

When someone dies, people say a lot of things that don’t mean anything. They need to fill in space and silence. They want to make you feel better. I know they mean well, but I don’t have patience for that. Neither did you. When you died, I heard every variation of “it gets easier.” I blocked out most of what people said to me, because most of it was less than useful. The one thing I did hear, and which is a kindness I’ll never forget, was, “One thing you can be sure of – there was never anything between you and your mother that went unsaid. Too many of us lose a loved one and are filled with regret at that which remained unsaid and undone. You will never have to feel that, because the two of you said it all. There was no unfinished business.”

This is true, Ma. You and I had no unfinished business. We did not take time, or each other, for granted. I’m glad of this but, if we never left anything unsaid, it’s also true that I’ll never run out of things I wish we could still talk about. I talk to you, still, as nutty as some people may think that is, but it’s not the same without your reply.

People say it gets easier. People are wrong. It never gets easier. We just get used to missing those who have left us behind. I'm used to missing you, Ma, but it hasn't gotten any easier.

I love you.

- Lana