January 24. My mother died ten years ago today. That thought at once leaves me breathless and numb.
Let me say it again: my mother died ten years ago today.
My father's voice blurry through the phone lines. I was drunk. It was almost four in the morning and I was in a strange house in New Jersey. My bare feet were cold on the hardwood floor. It was January. There was snow outside the windows, the phone was pressed hard to my ear, as if to keep myself from swaying. My father's voice. Honey, she's gone. You didn't make it in time. Did he really say that part? You didn't make it in time? Or was that my voice echoing through the phone lines? My mother was dead.
Ten years. I'm going to take the day off, I think. I'm going to call in sick to work, I think. I think I'll stay here at my desk in my little house and I'll drink coffee and I'll write to her. I think I'll go to yoga this afternoon, my favorite class. I'll probably cry during shavasana. I'm not sure what I'll do after that. I don't think I want to go to school tonight. I think I'll take this whole day off.
And then that will be it. Then I'll stop building my life around this shit. Ten years. It's enough. Enough to let go. I was. I am. I will be. Enough. I've had enough. I'm done with these days for a while. These deathdays, these dead parent days. I've exhausted it all in so many ways. It's exhausted me.
Let me insert my favorite Jamaica Kincaid quote here. I've used this so many times I know it by heart.
What to make of it? Why can't everybody just get used to it? People are born and they just can't go on and on, and if they can't go on and on, then they must go, but it is so hard, so hard for the people left behind; it's so hard to see them go, as if it had never happened before, and so hard it could not happen to anyone else, no one but you can survive this kind of loss, seeing someone go, seeing them leave you behind; you don't want to go with them, you only don't want them to go.
It just starts to seem absurd. This happens to all of us. We all lose people. All the time. We will die. All of our parents will die. Our siblings will die. Our best friends will die. Our children will die. Why can't everybody just get used to it? How can it be this huge each time? How can this thing that will happen to all of us, over and over and over again, become this defining moment in our lives? This loss, so hard it could not happen to anyone else, no one but you can survive this kind of loss. It's atonishing and beautiful and terrible.
She has been gone for ten years now. That is lifetimes and breaths and heartbreaks and losses and moves and identities and sky scrapers and palm trees and sighes and baths and soft sounds ago.
Ten years without a mother. Ten years of learning how tear myself apart and put myself back together. Ten years of trying to catch her laugh in mine. Ten years of learning how to cook, how to stand up straight, how to remind myself to be nice to myself. Ten years.
Paul asked me yesterday on the phone if I think I'm doing what my mom would want me to be doing with my life. My breath disappeared. I couldn't answer.
I'll answer now. Yes. Yes, I think I'm doing what my mother would have wanted me to be doing with my life. I'm doing more than she ever would have imagined.
I'm twenty-eight years old and I live in Los Angeles. My whole life is happening right now.