I’m beginning to lose track of how long it’s been since Mama died.
I do recall that at the one year mark, everything was startlingly clear. I remembered how the three of us, my big brother and sister and I, 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 in Lithonia, GA.
Three bleeding soldiers stumbling through battle smoke.
One year has become three years and I’ve learned that time is like a front porch from which I see the road. I peek at the cars passing by 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 these years 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 that they contributed to 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 had 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. My fear of being stuck in traffic and flying went through the roof. 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. Lucille delivered me here to this infested Earth, then left me to shop for the stupid shit on my dumb grocery list, all alone. A year of alone. Two. Three. A life of alone. Enduring Trump, alone (or so it felt).
Girlfriends do their best to mother me, keeping me kinda glued together with phone talks, tears and margaritas. I am grateful they don’t hide when they see me coming. (Some of them have lost their Mommies too, which makes me feel a little better).
And the best I can offer them, you, in return is to remain alive. Sigh into each sunrise, amazed that I have survived the gunfire of night. Go back to what keeps me from running naked into the street. Seeing the headlights and aiming for them anyway.
Returning to the arms that embrace and sometimes restrain.
Amazed that my skin is still sticking to me. In awe of the view from the porch.