This time last year, the three of us robotically returned to who we each were. I found the nearest track and went running. My sister went into extreme planning mode, finding the organist, the eulogist and the funeral home. My brother drove forty five minutes home to his wife.
Three bleeding soldiers stumbling through battle smoke.
A year later and I’ve learned that time is like a front porch from which to see the road. I peek at myself and I’m only a little bit amazed that I made it through. My siblings and I were made tough by a Mama who, by day, worked at a hospital for poor folks and, by night, a nursing home for their parents. Most of her shoes had hard bottoms. She made our arms muscular, teaching us how to grasp and turn a heavy lock on the front and back door in order to keep danger outside, beneath the streetlights.
My first thought when I opened my eyes this morning was wow my fingers are still here. And they work. They are not broken in half. My God, I’m alive.
How can I describe this first year without Mama? I’ve been manic and bug-eyed. Bitchy and kind. I stopped eating steak and had expensive-ass salmon almost everyday. I returned to white bread and barbecue chips. I kept to my routine of walking and running laps, on the grass as Mama instructed. She warned that running on pavement would ruin my bones. She begged my sister and me not to take hormone pills for hot flashes, convinced they caused her cancer. (I’m passing that one on to you).
I fed my cat and cried into her fur, when she’d let me. I took the boys for teeth cleanings and dragged the oldest through the torture of four spelling bees. I performed my poetry, every show starting with the announcement that my mother has died. I wrote poorly about her. I talked to you. I got my toes done three times. I bought a burgundy Mercedes that’s still in the shop. I ran out of money. I made money. I bought new glasses that look a bit like Oprah’s. I talked to God like He was chilling in my passenger seat. I talked to Luke, the produce manager at Safeway. I lost hair. I stopped having periods. I increased my fear of traffic and flying. I had my first hot flash. I drank diet cokes and sipped from bottles of water that lived in my cupholder and on my nightstand. I cried through Mama’s three closets then wondered where to place her shirts and cds in my lonely, little apartment.
And I marveled each time I woke up.
I mean, how do you make it without your Mother? A little bit at a time, I guess. A task here, a thought there. A regret. A dream of her voice that leaves you choking for air. A shoddy prayer that makes God roll His eyes but hopefully still hear. Handfuls of potato chips. Netflix.
It’s all so unfair. She brought you here to this infested Earth, then left you to shop for the stupid items on your dumb grocery list, all alone. A year of alone. A life of alone. Girlfriends do their best to mother you, keeping you partially glued together with phone talks, tears and margaritas. You are grateful they don’t hide when they see you coming. (Some of them have lost their Mommies too).
And the best you can offer them in return is to remain alive. Sigh into each sunrise, amazed that you survived the gunfire of night. Go back to what keeps you from running naked into the street.
Return to the arms that embrace and sometimes restrain.
Amazed that your skin is still sticking to you. In awe of the view from the porch.