Clearly my experience of the anger phase of grief is on delay. My mama’s been gone since 1989 and I don’t know if I’ve felt angry with her for leaving or mad at the world because she’s not in it. But last night, lo and behold, little mad-horns popped out of my head when I thought of her. Let me tell you all about it: I was finally climbing into bed after a long day teaching and managing fifth graders. Then, click! Mama’s face slid across my mind, maybe because I was tired and lonely or whatever. But just as immediately an angry thought came in: “who?” Weird, right? So, let me tell you that again: I was getting into bed, I saw Mama’s face then I thought “who?” As in “who is she? She’s been gone so long, I wonder if I know her anymore, if she matters anymore.” And that’s anger, with her, for leaving and not coming back, 26 freaking years ago. Damn! So now I realize I’m mad at her. She’s been away from me longer than she was with me. She left at 49 and I’m 49 so I’m scared too. Will I die at 49? Is my time almost up? Will the time come when I won’t know her anymore? And then the big one: did she love me? Did you love me Mama? I don’t think we leave people we love, but that’s not true. Yes we do. We leave people all the time, love or not. My good-brain tells me “of course she loved you. She took you in and raised you as her own. She never called you niece. You were daughter. Forever.” Forever. Mama. That’s what we are. Whether you are beside me as I complain about my students or beside me in spirit. Our love is a hand that reaches back to the day you slung me over your shoulder and declared your six month old niece daughter. When you kissed me as I left for the prom. When you told me you had lung cancer. When they slid your body into the vault then used four screws to seal you in. You are slid into me Mama. Tight. Through rage and grief, through fear and that hollow feeling I get when I try to describe you to my children. Through the kids I teach and the smile I toss to the counter girl at McDonalds. Tonight when I crawl beneath the blankets, I will let your face seep over me and I will ask: who? Who is this woman who loved me so much that even though she’s gone, she’s here and who am I to deserve such love? Goodnight Mama. See you later.
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