First of all, I’d like to thank each and every one of you who commented, sent cards, CD’s, virtual casseroles, and hugs. This whole experience has been harder than I could have ever imagined, and to have this forum along with this huge network of support has helped me process my thoughts and feelings in a nice, safe place. So thank you, thank you, and thank you.
I recognize (well, from what my therapist tells me) that this next year will be the hardest. All of the “firsts” without my mom. At the same time, I haven’t permanently lived in the same town as my mom since 1995. Haven’t seen her on a regular basis since the winter break before I graduated college in 2000. So 12 years of weekly phone calls, holiday visitation arrangements, trips to see her and my family, and visits from them. She never figured out how to use email (God bless her), so she’d occasionally write me long, hand-written letters.
This is the part that’s made it so surreal. Every day, I wake up and think, “Gee, I need to call my mom. I haven’t heard from her in a while.” Every day.
Unlike my sister, who saw my mom regularly, talked to her on the phone most every day to coordinate when she was watching her kids after school, I didn’t have that constant presence with my mom. It’s not like I’ve forgotten that she died. I see her urn in the living room. I can still hear her voice in my head without trying really hard.
My dad died when I was 11, and I had a similar, distant relationship with him, too. My parents divorced when I was two. I saw him every other weekend at his new house with his new wife. I slept in the spare room with my sister and we spent our days down by the creek skipping rocks during low tide. It’s been nearly 23 years since he died, and I can only tell you tiny slivers of my memories of him – the scar on his chest from his first open heart surgery, the kindness of his eyes, the ease of his laugh, the dark tan color of his hands. But I can’t remember his voice or how he walked or sat or even anything he ever said to me. I think he used to call me “darlin’.”
So I’m afraid to look down the barrel of 23 more years without my mom. It’s not unreasonable to think I’ll live to be 57, right? RR to be 25. My wife to be 61 (seriously, her people live to be in their 90’s). In 23 years, will I be able to remember her voice, or the way she would sit on the couch with her arms folded way up high, hands tucked in her armpits? Do I need to write these things down now, before I forget? Do I need to figure out a way to permanently save the dozen voicemails from her still sitting on my phone?
The people that I know who have lost both of their parents are all of a different generation. My mom’s generation. Your dad’s generation. These are the people giving me insight as to how to live as an orphan for the rest of your life. These are not 30 or 40 year old’s. Hopefully, the rest of my life will be long, long, long. My wife’s, too. And RR. That’s an awful lot of time to be an orphan, though. 23 years from now seems so far away, both in the past and in the future. For RR’s sake… for my sake, I need to start writing things down, so that when RR wants to know what her grandma was like, I can tell her, even if I don’t immediately remember. And, well, so I can tell myself.