I’ve always liked documenting my life in words. Most nights of my childhood are saved in a pink and white diary. My high school years are saved in various notebooks and AOL Instant Messenger printouts. As I went off to college, my need to document my life faded away. I no longer felt like I needed to see my life in print in order to make sense of it. I did, however, begin sharing more and more with my mother.
My mom and I were close my entire life, save for about two weeks my sixth grade year, when I was briefly embarrassed to have a mother. My mom quickly reminded me that everyone has a mother, and I realized it was silly to blush if my mom said hi to me when she was volunteering at my school. Our relationship only grew stronger, and by the time I started college, I referred to her as my best friend. She had the ability to walk the line between parent and friend, remaining completely effective and exemplary at both somehow.
I told her about boys I dated, good, bad and ugly. She listened patiently as I debated changing my major from accounting to communication studies, accounting to english, accounting to journalism, and she never questioned me when I chickened out of doing all three. We joined Weight Watchers together, and enjoyed stopping at Servatii’s Bakery immediately after weighing in. She tried to make me watch The Notebook, and when I refused, she put a copy in my Easter basket, knowing I couldn’t refuse. And she was kind enough not to say “I told you so” when I admitted it was fantastic and I sobbed for an hour after. When I fell in love – for real, this time – she did what all good mothers do: she was happy for me, embraced my husband-to-be, and subtly dug for information to make sure this man was good enough for her daughter. And there was so much more. She was a parent when I needed her to be, and a friend when I needed her to be.
On December 31, 2009, my mom was diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer. My family’s world turned upside-down in ways I’m not ready to put into print. In spite of everything my mom was going through – unending rounds of chemotherapy, multiple surgeries and stents placed, radiation when it spread – she comforted me. She comforted all of us as we struggled with the idea that our normal was different now. She still emailed me when she could, called to ask about my day, made me strawberry shortcake on my birthday even though it exhausted her for 48 hours after. I still went home on Monday nights to watch The Big Bang Theory, but now I fed her or changed the linens on the hospital bed in our family room while I was there. We talked about our days, we continued to obsess over mindless celebrity gossip, and we talked about bigger things – faith, God, death. Cancer couldn’t break our connection.
Sixteen months later, on April 20, 2011, my mom passed away, quietly, in the middle of the night, in a hospice room with only my dad by her side. The person who was best at collecting my thoughts and questions, the person who had served as my living-breathing-human-journal was gone. I was simultaneously empty and overflowing with things to say.
Over the next year, I slowly began putting my thoughts into words. I saved them in draft emails, random Word documents on various computers and on scraps of paper tucked into books and drawers in my home. Over the same year, I did a fair amount of living too. My husband and I gave up our apartment, lived with my dad and brother, then bought a house and rescued a dog. I got my first tattoo with my dad and brother. I went back to dance class and decided to take up running for awhile. I invested in some new friendships, tended to the existing ones, and eliminated some not worth keeping. I found a career I loved and am willing to put my heart and soul in to. I decided I do want to be a mother someday and made a commitment to take care of my mother’s mother. Through all of this, I missed being able to tell my mom about everything.
And so, here I am, about a year after her passing, desperately typing thoughts into a blog as if they’ll somehow reach my mom this way. (Do they use the internet in heaven? I don’t know.) I talk to her all the time in my head, but there’s no release because the thoughts remain there. Talking out loud to her makes me feel like a lunatic. So this is the solution, at least for now.
My beautiful mom, May 2007