My mom died on January 10th.
I guess you could say that means I’m in the process of grieving.
Grieving looks different from how I imagined it. I am not immobile in my bed. I am not bursting into tears at inopportune times.
My eyes well up when I talk about my mom. I don’t like telling people my mother is dead. I don’t like the idea in their head: Dead mother. Dead mother girl. Her mom is dead.
My mom was alive for so long, for my whole life. It means infinitely more to me than her death. My mother is not my dead mother. She is my mother.
I am not hiding secret pieces of her clothing. I am wearing her pants. They were her pants but they were not her pants. They were her sick pants. Stretchy sweat pants from Target, $12. Her belly was swollen and painful and she couldn’t stand the waistband hugging her abdomen.
I don’t understand it, they hug mine. I am fatter than my mother. For the most of my life, that wasn’t true. But then the cancer shrunk her appetite and she said, I guess my metabolism is finally working and she lost weight and told me I finally fit into a size 12.
When she started getting thin, too thin, I told her I would fatten her up. I can’t have my mom being thinner than me, I joked. At her first surgery, she told the doctor, Can you give me a tummy tuck while you’re in there?
I am wearing her pants and they don’t make me think of her, except when they do. They are comfortable pants. They look casual chic, so I feel less frumpy around the house. I don’t think: these were my dead mother’s pants.
Her orange shirt, the one she wore in all the photos from our last trip together, is sitting on my dresser. I don’t know what to do with it. It is not my shirt, unlike these pants, which are now my pants. I would not wear that shirt. It isn’t my color. It reminds me of her. I see it and I see her in it. Where do you put a dead person’s shirt? What about your dead mother’s?
My grief, if that’s what you want to call it, comes in waves. They are tiny, I think, like the ripples you see on the open ocean. They don’t come when someone talks about their own mom or when I read about cancer or when someone says, How are you doing?
They come when I think of her, in all her specificity. The way she would congratulate us when we said something funny, That was a good one or appreciate a delicious meal or the manic way (the manic way that I have always thought was mine) she would solve a problem, talking it through and through and through again. And how I can no longer tell her about these things and the way they have shaped me. How I wish I could say thank you, and can’t.
There is a quote for which I cannot find the author: “My mother taught me everything, except how to live without her.”
I find it to be completely untrue. My mother taught me everything, especially how to live without her. I want you to always stay, but I haven’t done my job if you want to.
Thank you thank you thank you.
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