You think you have a handle on the grief. The loss. Until you don’t. And are keeling into the crater hollowed out before you.
A knock. A jostling in an uncaring crowd. And you are falling into that gloaming darkness.
Just like that.
You’ve avoided for months those songs that reduce you to a weeping mess. Coldplay:
“For a second I was in control, I had it once I lost it though…”
Now you wail. Into the crater, into a room emptied of all but you.
“The tears come streaming down your face when you lose something you can’t replace.”
The sun flits frantically across bare wood floors. Shadows brood. You open your mother’s final sketchbook — and there it all is, the raw simplicity of a life ending, her only remaining vistas napping cats:
and the weekly sunflowers her daughter would nestle into a glass bowl:
Seven months, and you still have not cleaned out her closet. You can only open the door, contemplate her handbags hanging askew on hooks. Knowing too intimately that there are old tissues and lipsticks in their worn pockets. You shut the door as if on a sleeping child.
After she died you did some things quickly: threw out all her underwear, her mastectomy bras, worn turtlenecks, gave away all her shoes, disposed of all her makeup, that was the first thing…
Then there were things you had to keep but put out of sight: her hairbrushes. Old perfume bottles. Ceramic pill boxes.
You kept her jewelry but cannot wear it.
You took down from the walls her paintings that she no longer was able to recognize as her own. A truth that one night brought you to your knees…
You rearranged the rest as best you could to avoid the sharp edges of missing YOU, Mom…
You told yourself you would get. used. to. this.
But you cannot touch her paint brushes. Unfinished canvasses…
“All I know, is that I’m lost, whenever you go…All I know, is that I love you so, so much that it hurts…”
Their last conversation, she’d called to tell her daughter this: “Sandy, I’m dying.”
“How do you know you’re dying?”
“Because I know.”
The daughter had pressed one hand up against the cold windowpane. She remembered the details of that April morning, the sun white against a flat blue sky… an old cobweb on the outside sill wavering in a breeze. Then the daughter had headed out east to see her mother one last time.
The daughter arrived in time for her mother to rally and drink pear juice. Until the business of dying took grip and she vomited black bile.
And her mother began to count. She counted one, two, three, one, two, one, two. The daughter, a frightened child, counted with her not knowing what else she could do. Her mother’s hands flit around her blanket as months later the sun would flit around an empty room. Frantically.
There is no comfort.
“I don’t know what’s happening to me,” her mother had said. Over and over, for hours it seemed, straining to sit up when she couldn’t…
You are dying.You are learning how to leave me.
“To find yourself alone in the world…”
For weeks after she died, the daughter would wrap herself up in her mother’s sweater, careful not to disturb the grey hairs tangled in its matted fleece.
And she would fail at trying to remember her mother not as sick with a gangrenous leg, frail, afraid, but as she would want to be remembered, a young woman riding a horse bareback down mountain in a thunderstorm…
“You’re always in my head.”
Mom. Walk through those sliding doors one more time. Show me broken shells along the beach. Tell me again, “You are a most satisfying daughter.”
“You wonder when you wake up will it be all right…”