The Surprise of What We Knew All Along

Oops.  I forgot to post last Friday.  I’ve cut down from every week to every-other-week, as some of readers may have noticed—but this is the first time since beginning this blog 18 months ago that I’ve completely forgotten.

Last Friday, October 26, marked the twelfth anniversary of my mother’s death.  She died at 11:35 a.m. on a Thursday, less than a month before “hanging chads” became front-page news and less than a year before my father almost boarded UAL flight 93 from Newark to SFO.  Events of enormous consequence.  Events that ushered in a new world.  I would never minimize the significance of Bush v Gore or of 9/11, but when I think about the changes since both milestones, I think as well about the differences of a world with a mother in it from a world without.

Twelve years is a long time, and a blink.   Plenty of time to adjust, but the enormity that stunned me on the day she died—a world without her in it seemed as alien as a sky without the moon—remains.  I’m used to it, and the implications still sneak up on me.

Such as:  I forgot to post to this blog last Friday.  I registered that twelve years had passed; I lit a candle to mark the occasion; I mentioned the anniversary to several people.  No big deal, and yet the biggest deal of all. Hardly earth shattering, my forgetting to post reminded me how grief never goes away.  It changes its stripes, but it never vanishes.

One evening soon after learning that Mom had stage IV lung cancer, I put broccoli on the stove for dinner.  I trimmed the woody stalks, cut the florets into roughly uniform size, poured them into the steamer basket, set it on the stove, turned on the flame, left the room.  About ten minutes later, I smelled something funny and went back to investigate.  I’d forgotten to add water to the pot.

Not long after, after a swim, I stood under the shower—the one along the wall where swimmers rinse before and after laps, the one in full view not only of anyone in the pool but of the lifeguard and the passers-by on the other side of the windows.  I let the warm water beat against my shoulders, cascade down my neck.  And then I did what felt completely natural—I was in the shower, after all:  I pulled the straps of my suit from my shoulders and started rolling off the wet Lycra.  I’d gotten as far as my waist when I realized what I was doing.  I don’t think anyone saw, but I got the message. Distraction lurks everywhere.  You are not yourself right now.

This is a long-winded way, perhaps, of explaining my absence from the blogsphere last Friday.  Some might say, an excuse.  My mom died twelve years ago.  Neither excuse nor explanation is necessary, of course—and neither brought me to the keyboard this morning, to post on a Monday.

I think of other recent out-of-the-ordinary events.  The wonderful yoga studio around the corner, closing.  A warm day at Stinson Beach in late October, complete with sightings of starfish, anemones, and nudists.  The Giants’ winning the World Series for the second time in three years (not to mention the fact that I recognize all the players and refer to them by nickname).  The fact that I just celebrated a year of marriage with the man I love, the man I’d thought at times I’d never meet and then—gloriously, blessedly—did.

I’ve long ago accepted the fact that I can’t share those, or other, events with my mother.  And that’s fine, really. But next time I tell myself that loss attenuates over time—which it does—I’ll remember the heel-of-the-hand-to-the-forehead realization that brought me to this topic at the keyboard this morning:  It’s always a big deal.

I’ll be back on track on Friday.  Or that’s the plan.

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