Dora did not have school again today, so I made up some little math word problems for her. If Oscar has two trucks, and daddy gives him three more trucks, how many trucks does Oscar have? She spent a good part of the day working on these. I have to remember this the next time she says to me, in her whiniest, teenager voice, "I don't know what to dooooooo!"
So, here's a word problem for you:
Oscar is 2 and a half. Dora is 6 and a half. 2.5 + 6.5 = 9. I have 9 years of kid between the two of them.
You know what else I have 9 years of? Missing my mother, who died 9 years ago today.
At first when I realized this today I thought this would be true forever, that every year my children's ages would add up to the number of years since my mother's death. But in doing the math on a piece of paper now, it doesn't. Next year, if I don't include the half years, it does add up (3+7 = 10). But the following year, 4+8 = 12. Someone smarter than I, a mathematician or a statistician, could tell me what, if anything, this means. I guess it's just a little coincidence, a little oddity that happens when stars (or something) align. I'm not sure whether to be disappointed or relieved. It seemed like a morbid, freak-show kind of thing at first, and then it seemed like a bit of a comforting oddity, like the cowlick at the base of Dora's neck that she inherited directly from me.
Regardless, I guess it's me trying to find some pattern, order, or level of understanding in this chaotic and desolate landscape of grief I find myself 9 years into. It's this crazy, elastic, unpredictable space that comes and goes, waxes and wanes, and evolves in ways I didn't know possible. Nine years later and I still have days where it feels like it happened THIS MORNING. I have days where I can still feel exactly how much dread I felt driving down the driveway away from my parent's house, knowing I would never again return to that place with my mother alive. I have days where my jealousy that my kids don't get to know their grandma is alive like another person in the room, standing in the corner up against the wall, a bit out of sight but there just the same.
Dora, in her old age, has become increasingly perceptive about my feelings about my mom. Simultaneously she is also very curious about death, I think, and talks a lot about Grandma Carol in heaven, about how much I miss my mommy, about how sad she is not to meet her, and about how sad she will be when I die. She has even suggested that, when I die, I'll get to see my mother again. I know much of that is her mirroring my emotions - after all, she has seen me cry openly about my mother on many occasions - but I also have to believe that, in some way, this open dialogue she and I share about grief and love between mothers and daughters is influencing her own understanding of love and it's power. I want, I need, her to believe that our love lasts forever.
I believe that it does and, also, I struggle to believe that the love between my mom and I lasts forever. I know mine is still going strong, but I don't always feel whether or not that love is getting picked up on the other end, or that it's being returned. I have faith and I'm a Christian and all that jazz, but when you lose someone you love like this - well, you WANT to believe they're on the other end of the love you send to them. You WANT to feel them watching over you, you WANT to sense their presence. But, my friends, it isn't that simple - at least not for me. She's no Casper on my shoulder. She's in my heart, yes, but I seldom - if ever - feel the love coming back to me. I want to believe that she's out there in the universe or in heaven or in God reflecting that light back to me, but, honestly, the signal ain't coming through.
And here I am in that rubbery landscape of grief and I've found a whole new area I didn't know existed. That's what's so shitty about death - the person still living simply has no proof of whether the deceased still loves them. We want to believe it, we really do, but the flow of love from that other person feels like it ends when they do.
So, I want and need my little Dora - and Oscar, when he's old enough to talk about it - to know that MY LOVE for them lasts forever. That our love will keep us connected no matter what. That when we are separated by death, our hearts remain fused, our love goes on into eternity, our light shines between us forever. My own mother, though she had many great qualities, never talked about her own death - even when she was terminally ill. This was a conversation we never could have had. As a mother myself, I know how much she loved me, but she never said, "Carrie, even when I die, our love lasts forever." I really wish she had.
Grief is a rubbery landscape and also a place where we continue to look for answers, even when we know there are none. We look for something to make sense of, even if it's that our kid's ages somehow mysteriously add up to the number of years of loss we've experienced. I keep turning over the rocks, keep looking around for some clue. I cannot make sense of this, but at least I keep asking. At least I keep feeling it, at least I can still cry about it. If I lose that, well, then she would be even more lost to me. If I ever stopped exploring this landscape at least a little, it feels like I'd be closing the door on my relationship with my mother forever. Feeling the sadness, at least, feels a little like life, and a lot like love.
9=long in time
May my connection to you, mama, be long in time...
Always, your girl