Grief is an ocean that fits like magic inside a human.
My mom died on Oct. 3, 2010.
My ocean was, for a long time, a sad and angry churning sea. It’s calmer now, but it’s always there.
Lots of little things remind me of my mom. It can be something goofy that personifies her – that damn blue VW beetle, for example, that she loved. We were in it one day when she whipped hard to the right and said, “Oooh let’s get massages, Julie!”
We proceeded to the massage station and got into the chairs in a lobby. The workers talked to each other the entire time. This is a major first-world problem, irritating massage therapists who don’t know when to shut up, then on top of that answer phone calls when they are supposed to be working the knots on your lats out with their elbows.
We complained accordingly to each other on the way home in the blue VW.
I shot up in bed last night because I remembered what day it *almost* was.
I remembered that I nearly forgot.
That upset me, the nearly forgetting that today was the day my mom died.
I cried a lot, and while crying a lot, realized I hadn’t cried over my mom in a long time.
That upset me, that I hadn’t shed tears for her in so long.
Am I losing her from my memory? Is she slipping further away? I cried some more.
I emerged from our bedroom at midnight all tear-streaked and in that pathetic state poured a bowl of cereal and told Mark that I almost forgot what day it was. And then I poured another bowl of cereal.
And then I chugged Nyquil which was partly legit since I still have a cold, sort of.
I needed to sleep.
Today I woke up and me and my puffy eye bags decided how this day was going to go.
It was going to be a good day.
For one thing, I had assignments at work that needed attention and required focus.
In between them I did ‘Gayle’ things.
I wore navy – her favorite color. I drank a chai. Later, a Diet Dr. Pepper. She liked a good caffeinated bev.
Of course my mind wandered in between the times it focused on outside matters. I wished she were here. I wished she got to meet my son.
It took a lot of ninja-chop mind control to halt and re-direct those thoughts.
I called my sister. She was having a hard day.
She *also * almost forgot what day it was. She mindlessly shared a Facebook post that contained pictures of our mom from a year prior. But she hadn’t looked closely at what she wrote those 365 days ago to accompany the pictures.
A friend at her work noticed her post and brought her a little gift, a talisman of sorts to ward off sad thoughts.
The gift prompted her to re-examine her re-posted one-year-old status update, which was all about my mom. The loss. That it sucked then and still does now.
Gee, thanks Facebook.
She was torn up all day. Unlike me, she didn’t have the luxury of *almost* forgetting “the day” at like 11:30 p.m. the day prior.
We got off on a tangent. I told her about how Laila and Eli had this weird sibling ESP moment the other day. Laila was with me, and blurted out that Eli still has nightmares about his car accident.
He got in a car accident with his nanny about a year and a half ago.
At the same time, in a car across town with Mark, Eli started screaming and saying his neck hurt. He pointed at the pickup truck in front of them. He said that was the truck from his accident.
“I feel like Laila is the type of kid who sees dead people,” my sister offered.
We cracked up. Laila has been drawn to creepy stories since she learned to talk. She *would* have weird, sibling ESP.
Anyway, I spoke to Laura before going for a run, and I told her we needed to make this day more like a family-only national holiday and less of a sad day.
This is mom’s re-birthday, I said.
Hell, I’m going to make it her re-birth week.
I ran — not that my mom once put on running shoes and jogged for the 3o years I got to know her. That was more for me.
Emotional pain: It’s great fuel for a work-out.
I’m going to have a great week. I’m taking Laila camping on Friday with her Girl Scout troop (oh dear lord please save me).
Laila is all cut up that I’m taking Eli to Boston Sunday for my showdown with his drug company, which is gouging sick people who need its medicine to stay alive.
Laila doesn’t care. She cares that I’m taking Eli, not her, on a special trip. So we are camping, even though I’m terrible at camping, and I hate camping. And then me and Eli are going to Boston to deliver this petition I’ve concocted that asks his flagship drugmaker to pump the brakes on charging McMansion-equivelant prices per year for drugs that can extend lives.
Eli doesn’t care about such things at 3. He’s just happy to hang with mommy.
I asked him if he knew why we were going to Boston.
“No Mommy. Why?”
“They’re gouging our drugs.”
“Firetrucks?” he responded. “FIRETRUCKS!”
“No sweetie. Gouging drugs.”
“What’s wrong with their firetrucks?” he asked, gravely concerned.
I’m not sure what Gayle would make of my weird activism side hobby.
She’d support me but worry for me.
She’d warn me: Don’t be tacky.
Especially not so tacky you are tack-O.
My sister filled in the blank:
“Don’t yell,” she advised.
Not planning on it. Planning on keeping it cool. Listening mostly, but saying what I came to town to say. Our drugs cost too much.
My mom would have secretly delighted in the fact that I asked her for advice.
She’d say ‘Listen.’ She’d brainstorm preemptive comebacks for imagined future scenarios in which some drug company exec. hassles me in Boston.
Or, she’d think of the comebacks five days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and 3.000000583 seconds after I told her about the situation that ailed me.
It would be so nice to have her here still, but I’m glad I got her for as long as I did.
To Gayle, my mom, my hero, I raise a glass.