Sometimes I forget, but my body always remembers. I become achy. I want to hunker down in my own house, stay in bed longer than usual. Here in Albuquerque it’s easy to chalk it up to winter–January is the coldest month–but it’s neither winter nor the cold that makes me weepy.
It’s been 34 years and most of the time I don’t get bogged down with grief and longing for something, for my mom, but writing this dissertation means I’ve been dredging up the memories; I’ve been deliberately putting myself back in that time when I was a messed up teenager.
Last week I was at the Children’s Grief Center, where I co-facilitate a bereavement group for teens. During our facilitator check-in I mentioned that the anniversary of my mom’s death was coming up. I said I was feeling a little sad, but I was glad to be there as a volunteer. A couple of people came up to me after the check-in and asked if I was okay. I said “Yes,” and I meant it.
And then, two days later I had a meltdown in front of my professor and two of my colleagues. Right there at Winnings Coffee. It was weird. I started the meeting feeling good about my pages, about the state my dissertation was in. (I’ve made peace with the fact that at the time of my defense it won’t be perfect, but it will be defendable. ) We were talking about my latest revisions, and all of the sudden a thought came into my head–that my mom wouldn’t be there. That my dad wouldn’t be there. I felt this flush of sadness simply overwhelm my body and I started to cry. And then I felt stupid for crying.
I know grief comes in waves, and I know that even years later you can feel the loss, that sometimes something triggers the feeling of loss. But Geez! it’s been THIRTY FOUR YEARS.
I explained to my colleagues that the following day was the anniversary of my mom’s death, and to please just understand that sometimes I feel emotionally unstable at this time of year…. I dried my tears, pulled myself together, and we moved on.
The next morning Suzanne called. I was buried under my down comforter listening to the radio and just about to start feeling guilty for not being up and about…
“I know you said that today is the anniversary of your mother’s death. I don’t know if you do anything special….”
“No. Mostly I just feel weepy,” I said. Since I’ve been volunteering at the Grief Center, and writing this memoir, I’m much more aware of these kinds of feelings, and much more willing to be open about them, speak of them matter-of-factly.
She invited me out for a walk and showed up an hour later, holding a lavender plant, our mutual friend Cassie in tow. We spent the morning walking along the Bosque trail, talking and laughing.
A four mile walk may not be something specific I would choose to do to honor my mom, but it was great way to hang out with good friends, get fresh air, enjoy my favorite part of Albuquerque along the Rio Grande (the only place where there is water) and not feel alone.
February 1 (today) would have been my Dad’s 79th birthday.
This anniversary isn’t as tough emotionally. I had more time with my dad. He was older when he died (though he could have lived longer had he taken better care of himself). I’m spending the day working on my dissertation, the thing that will get me the MFA degree. My dad worked hard, worked a lot, he was smart. He had two master’s degrees, so I think he’d be proud.
Maybe I’ll go for a walk later….