I know, it’s confusing.
It’s confusing to me, too.
You hardly knew her. We rarely talked about her.
I’m erratic lately.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve tried not to be erratic.
Yet since she passed away, I’ve wept without notice.
Every afternoon around 3:00, a deep fatigue overwhelms me. I try to lie down and read, but mostly I stare at the ceiling.
In the morning, I wake before the sun. I sit up in bed. I notice the half-light and lay back on the pillow.
Your father shifts beside me. He sighs in his sleep. I wonder what he’s thinking, if he’s dreaming. I look over at him. His face is relaxed. His goatee is more silver than dark.
I reach into the side drawer and take out my notebook. I begin to write.
She always told me not to write anything I didn’t want the whole world to read.
I live by these words.
Now, with pen to paper, I struggle to capture all that we were.
I turn the word over and over in my mind.
I never once thought it during the twelve-plus years we didn’t speak.
Yet I have uttered it dozens of times in the last four weeks. I’ve tried to explain. It is the maternal postscript I offer when people ask how my summer is going.
My mother died. P.S. We weren’t close.
Often, I think of the hospital. The winding hallways and the beeping machines. The sterile room and the white blankets.
She asked what I thought God looked like.
You are the only one with dark hair, brown eyes. You carry the least of my side of the family in your face.
I didn’t always know how to be a mother. I didn’t have a lot of context.
I don’t know how to explain it to you, without dismantling the idea of motherhood I’ve worked so hard to build.
She wasn’t well.
She was anxious, and paranoid, and scared, and angry.
The possibility of therapy and medication never made their presence known in her narrative. They weren’t a part of the conversation.
People ask if I assumed I had more time. That years were on my side for a reunion, a resolution.
No, I answer. Not really.
It’s important I don’t sugarcoat the reality—all the fraught exchanges and tense interactions that led us here.
When it comes to life’s clock, I guess I thought I had more time to make her proud. But even that sentiment feels sweetened.
Desperately, I wish for a legacy to pass along—some semblance of diamonds amongst the ruff of chaos, of loss.
Did I want you to know her? Of course I did.
She would have loved to see you play. The way you stand on the mound, all six-foot, two inches of you, and throw fastballs, change-ups, sliders. Your face is determined and sure.
Why didn’t I invite her to a game?
I guess you could say it’s complicated. Sitting side by side in the bleachers would have required an effort I didn’t possess. It would have meant another unraveling, as that’s all we knew how to do.
Now, as the afternoon sun makes a slow arc across the ceiling, I focus on the good stuff.
The time we went to Disney in a sweltering July.
Between rides, we asked for ice cream. She walked over to the vendor and bought our choices. We sat in the shade and savored the coolness. When we finished, she stood up and smiled.
“Let’s get another one!”
I wonder if, all these years, I thought about her more than I realized.
The smell of lilac in springtime.
A movie I know she would have enjoyed, had anxiety not prevented her from leaving the house.
A box of Cream of Wheat, sitting upright on a shelf in the grocery store. I can almost feel the warm bowl in my hands. She always added extra butter and sugar.
And now, my own family. My own legacy. What will I leave behind?
“Mom, why don’t we go to Disney. We can visit the place where you had the ice cream.”
I am proud of you.
I’ve been proud of you since you first opened your eyes and took in the world.
I never write anything I don’t want the whole world to read.
I told her I think God is lovely. It was all I could think of to say.
She loved baseball.