When my mom died, I used to think that the worst thing in the world was losing a mother in my 20’s (or, in the case of my siblings, before they were even out of their teens). It felt like such a terrible thing; the sudden loss, the weight of the grief, having someone so deeply rooted in my life no longer there.
Six years out and the anniversary of her death still hits me, only differently. Before it felt so immediate, the anger as I questioned “why aren’t you here now?” I still feel that, but it has been a very full six years and looking back I am astounded by how much she missed.
It is such a messy thing dealing with parents. But as a parent I am also learning how messy it is dealing with children. How many times a day do I wonder to myself if I am completely screwing my kids up. Even with the best intentions it never feels like enough. When I was running in California I often ran through a park I frequented when I lived there. As soon as I ran down the stone steps the first day, the memories felt so thick I thought I would smother, ten years of memories cascading and colliding as I ran. I moved to southern California as a 19 year old sophomore. I left a decade later with a husband and a two week old baby.
There is a lot that happened in ten years. A lot of growing up and growing into myself. Discovering what life held and learning that life, on the whole, was worth living. I finished school, fell in love, got married, dealt with my mom’s cancer from a distance, and lost her a year before we moved away. I grew up during those years, although a decade seems decadently lengthy for that process. As I was running, Linkin Parks’ song, Numb came up on my playlist. A song that I had on repeat for months before and after my mom’s death. A song that for me epitomized how our relationship so often felt.
I feel like I lost my mom right as I was “really” growing up. Right when we were at a point where our relationship could have been more of a friendship, less of a “let-me-grow-up/no-I-cant” tug-of-war. I look back now and see her missing in my married adult life; marriage, children, the difficulties and frustrations of trying to parent. So often I felt like she wished she could keep me frozen at 10 years old, but I think the phase of my life that she completely missed is one she would have loved.
As a mom, I know that in only four years there are countless stories and pieces of information, intimate knowledge about my children that no one else knows that would be completely lost if I was gone. I didn’t see that before I became a mom so it wasn’t something that I missed, but now I grieve the loss of so many pieces of me; as a baby, as a young child, that no one else has answers for.
The irony is not missed on me, after all those years of feeling real (and sometimes perceived) disappointment about who I was as a person, that I am now living a life that my mom, by and large, would have approved of. I garden. I bake. I have (almost) 3 children who will be 2 years apart. I stay home instead of working. I live in a state that she would have loved. Partly by accident and partly by choice (I really do like to cook, bake, and garden, but I will probably never want to make clothing from scratch) I have become an adult who is like my mom, but different. I think that now we could be good friends. And now it’s too late.
I don’t know that I could have grown up any sooner but I wish it could have been different. I wish she were here to swoop in and rescue me during the horrible nauseous season of pregnancy when I felt so alone, when other women’s mothers take up residence and keep things running. I wish she were here to give what would be inevitably impractical parenting advice that I would listen to and then ignore. I wish she were here to ask a thousand and one questions that I have about growing up. I wish she were here to stop at one more historic monument and drive us all to distraction.
I just wish she was here.