my mom in red pants in Mexico, 1979
cw: death, grief, moms, complicated grief
I should be asleep but I’m up reading the medical reports from when my mom was in hospice five years ago. I’m also crying but you probably could have guessed that. Welcome. You’re just in time for a meeting of Crying in the Dead Moms Club.
I’ve read these reports before and I know them well. I know that in the week before she died, she was only eating about a half cup of rainbow sherbet a day, nothing else. I know how much morphine she was on, how she occasionally needed extra lorazepam when she was agitated and confused but to the point where she could no longer speak. I see myself as a shadow in the reports’ patient and surgical histories: “patient has one child, daughter”, “c-section”.
The surgical history also mentions “cholecystectomy” but doesn’t have the detail that it happened the same day as the c-section; her gallbladder ruptured during labor and had to be removed soon after I was. She insisted on holding me for twenty minutes despite the risk of delaying surgery, handing me over to my abuela and dad for the first three weeks of my life. I was maybe four or five when I asked her about the long jagged scar across her abdomen.
“Did I do that?” The scar looked simultaneously soft and angry.
“No, you left a smaller scar much lower,” she laughed. “This was the gift with purchase.”
It’s no secret that I have a complicated relationship with my mom. I use the present tense because I’m still here, the relationship’s not over. She’s not here but I’m left with everything we did and didn’t say and do, every potential outcome hanging in the air, never even to be attempted. I’m here doing my part of things, figuring it all out with the pieces left behind. I wish my mom knew me as I am now; I wonder if I’d be who I am now if she were here. We always seemed to be just missing each other, leaving or misunderstanding or slipping away somehow. I’m still here and I’m holding all of it.
I’ve always been the writer in my family, the one who could put things in a way everyone understood, language barriers and all. It makes sense that I’m here with all of this; my inheritance, if you will. I’ve spent the time since I’ve lost my mom trying to make sense of her, to make her choices fit my life’s paradigm, but I think I need to just see her and know her and meet her where she was, wherever she is.
It’s unfair that I have to do this. I’m the child! I was never really allowed to be a child, I was wronged and harmed. I sat with this resentment for years, festering in the things I was denied: freedom, anger, expression, the feeling of being unburdened. I’ve spent a long time strengthening my adult voice and learning how to protect not just myself now but the younger version of myself that still feels pain and fear and loss deep inside me. It’s not fair but it’s what I can do that she couldn’t (that my aunt couldn’t) (that my abuela couldn’t) (that my bisabuela couldn’t). I’ve healed through their footprints, my feet not quite fitting each imprint left behind for me but grateful for the path they tried to give me anyways.
It’s imbolc and it feels like the veil between worlds is thinner than usual. We are halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox and I know this is why I feel my mom with me more than usual right now; each of us born on a Sunday, me in winter, she in spring. We were both born in places without real seasons but we ended up entering the world exactly at the times we were meant to. My winter water moon is thawing and waiting for more and more light; her springtime air moon is pink and fragrant and forever reminding me that despite everything, I will bloom again.