31 December 2011

June rains gave way to July stars. I didn't see them, but I knew they were there. What was it like, those first mornings without her? On June 18th, we went on the boat. I resisted; I thought I shouldn't leave the house, she might die while I'm gone, and then came the first time of thousands of time that I had to tell myself, "But she is already dead."

I didn't know when I started this that I would look back on these words to re-inhabit my life without my mother. I cry, sometimes, but the other day I smiled, I laughed at the thought of my little brother Michael showering her with kisses, as he told my mother how much nachas she brought.

A new year begins soon. I have a small package of golden sparklers in my bag, I will hold my husband's hand on the subway. My brothers are in the country. Michael is at Petey's cabin, Adam is in the northern solitude of Arizona, meeting his girlfriend's grandmother for the first time. When they come home, they will move into a loft in Red Hook - he wrote to me: Seriously there is no reason that we should be able to be in a place this awesome.  I like to think that mom made it possible.  I think she did. Petey is in our house - he says that being amongst couples is too hard. I understand. I feel the same way about being with families, or listening to the girls speak with careless luxury about their mothers in a way that makes me choked with desire.

It is almost a new year. My mother was alive in 2011, my mother was at our wedding. When 2012 arrives, I will not be able to call my night owl tonight, at the stroke of midnight, like I did every year. My mother will not be alive in 2012. I do not know what this year will bring. I do know I am taking my husband to Tulum, where I went with my mother a decade ago, and I will think of her as we lay amongst the ruins. I have no resolutions, but to be resolute.

I sat down at the kitchen table today, to start a book, the book I have been meaning to write. I have been waiting for my story to arrive. Turns out, I have been living my story. It might be a slim volume, but it will be filled with the only things I can give: love, memory, and honor. It will be for you, Blanche Susan Land Batnick. It will be a book for my mother.

20 December 2011

Dear Mom,

It has been 6 months and 3 days since you died. How can that be? What was it like, that first morning, those first days without you here? 

I have been writing, Mom, I have spent time with my brothers, I haven't seen Poppy enough, I have been to weddings, I went to Zac's first birthday party on Sunday and when I saw Jane (it was the first time since Shiva, I think I was afraid) I cried, I had brunch with Lisa, I went to Petey's Turkey Federation Family Day, I saw a man who was hit by a car and died.

Mom, I don't know how this has changed me. I know what I can see now, that I couldn't see then. I know that what I feel is beyond emotion: it comes from my body, my body that came from yours. I want to hear your voice, I want to watch tv with you in bed, I want to hold your hand. Mom, you are dead, but why can't I call you? We build towers into the sky, we have been to the moon, but this is the impenetrable loss that cannot be triumphed. So I write to you, Mom, I send you millions of kisses, I eat oatmeal and I think of you, I get under piles of blankets and I think of you, I open my eyes in the morning and I think of you. I want to eat toast and peanut butter in the morning with you, drink your coffee with cinnamon, sitting at the kitchen table, the phone ringing non-stop (everyone loved you!). Mom, it was hard for me, in those last months, to share you. I wanted to shout that you were mine, ours, my mother! I know that I am so lucky to have had a mother who was so loved, but I wanted you to myself. There was so much that I didn't get to ask you. What did you use ammonia for? What was your recipe for stuffed mushrooms? How did it feel to know you were dying? That was the hardest question, Mom, and the question you didn't want us to ask, the question you didn't want to share with your children, but when we asked, you told us, for you were always honest. One night, you said to me, "The girls were so sad today." I asked, "What about you?" and you said, "Me? I'm not too sad." It was so hard to watch old friends cry when they came to say goodbye to you. I couldn't do it. But it gave me peace to know you weren't too sad. It gave me peace to know that you were at peace. I know you felt you would be with your parents again, with your mother, that a few months before you died, you told Adam that you felt them tugging at your toes. Mom, I will be with you again one day, and that gives me peace. 

Mommy, I love you and I miss you from so deep inside. All I want is what I will never have. I want you, I want you back. I would trade all these words, I would give anything. I think these words worry some - that I am not okay, I am not moving on. I am not okay, I am not moving on, but, I am okay, I am moving on. I owe you my best life. Mom, I know you would understand this: what would it mean if I did not feel this way? How could I not be decimated by losing my mother? How did you raise 3 small children in the wake of your mother's death, your mother who you loved like I love you? This is the gamble of love: those you love might leave, those you love will die. I take that gamble. I choose love, like you chose love.

Mom, I would give anything to hear your voice again. Every day, this mourning, this grieving changes, but I cannot imagine a day when I will not miss you. That's the great rub of it all - I will move forward, I will grow, and I will change, and with every movement, you will not be here. You will never be here again. We will never be together again, Mom. Except, you told me and you are my mother, and I believe you, you said it! I will be with you always, except for the private moments. Be with me always, Mom. I need you. We need you.

I love you.

12 December 2011

Most nights when I set out to do this, I know what I want to say to you. It is always at night. I am, like Blanche Susan, a sleepy night owl.

The thumb on my left hand is dry and withered. I do not seek to remedy it. I stroke it, I nurture it, for I know where it comes from, and I do not want to hear any other explanation. It is my childhood, representing itself. If I were to tell my mother about my left thumb, she would know it was the thumb that I sucked until I was too old to suck my thumb, my unconscious habit, in bed, lights dim, under the covers, with a book tucked in front of me and a pile of books beside me.

The other night, I was out with my husband and J., the troubadour, who both claim to not remember what it feels like to be a child. Not remember what it feels like to be a child! It seems impossible to me. I think my entire life is a winding pursuit to the secret garden I dreamed of when I was small. I search for the path that leads to a palace blanketed in snow crunching beneath my feet, a gown made by my mother clutched between my mittened hands. I look for the doll makers, the suffragettes, the pioneers, the mute geniuses, an old house in Paris that was covered with vines. I look for the life I found in the books she spoiled me with. She, the non-reader, indulged her daughter at the library, at the bookstore.

The sadness of mourning, you learn to live with. The anger of grief, you learn to live with. The anxiety, the fear, the depression, all of it becomes a new, familiar friend. What I will never learn to live with is missing my mother. My mother is my phantom self, the part of me that is no more. I do not want to close my books, my dreams, myself as my mother's child. I pick at my left thumb, I treasure that old wound, for in it is the late nights, hot under blankets in the cold house, the girl who didn't quite belong, but was loved, and oh, how I was loved. In my scaly left thumb, is my mother, guiding me along.

01 December 2011

Where are we going? Tomorrow night, I am going to my mother's childhood temple to be with my uncles as a plaque is raised, bearing her name and the date of her death. One night, a few nights ago, I dreamed of my mother, dying, over and over again I heard her last breath, and in my dream I fought with those I felt took away our time together, instead of fighting with myself for the time I didn't spend with her. When we brought her home from the hospital the last time, I made plans to take her to lunch. We never went. I am imperfect. My mistakes keep me awake at night. There are so many mistakes, and no one knows them better and more intimately than I do. I long to undo them, but I cannot.

This morning I bathed, I drank coffee, I put on my newly tailored black lace pants, I fed the cat. I got in the car, and stopped still a block from our house: in front of my car, in the intersection, a man was lying face down. He had been hit, the driver left the scene, traffic was stopped, two men kneeled next to him. He was dead, I think. There was no blood, he was old. Where was he going? Police officers arrived on foot, someone crossed the street, picked up his hat and his shoe (they had taken flight, the man was dispossessed of his hat, his shoe, his life) and returned them to their dead owner. I pulled my car over, turned it off, and sat. And then I walked to work.

I think of the man who drove away after he killed someone this morning. He drove away from his mistake, he drove towards his mistake, and it will ruin his life.

M. told me today that she read the toast she gave at her sister's wedding last weekend. She toasted her sister and talked about their brother, dead 13 years. She was nervous to speak about her brother. She has lived half of her life without him, and with fine-tuned antennae, grown since girlhood, she has learned what I stubbornly have not: people do not know what to say. She reminded me that if they did, it might be because they understand, and no one should understand. I say gently, though: live life, love, and the understanding is inevitable. Hurt, heartbreak, mourning is in direct proportion to the depths of one's mortal love. She was nervous, but she did not cry and she whispered in the ear of her sister the bride, "He is with us."

M. told me that when I arrived at work this morning I was white as a sheet. "White as a ghost," I thought, but I know no ghosts. I know dead people, and you are not dead.