Grief is a thief. It steals my moments, creeping in when I least expect it, removing joy from experiences because it might be the last time I do this thing and how can I enjoy something if I’m not sure if I’ll ever have this moment again, like it is right now?
I remember the last time I went shopping at the mall with my mom. It was on Mother’s Day two years ago and we got caught in the rain. She giggled so hard at me walking through Dillard’s with wet hair and soaked clothes, and took photos with her (obsolete) cell phone. That was the last time we walked around the mall, and I don’t know if we will ever do it again.
We used to go shopping all the time when I was younger. We both have an eye for decorating, and we love a bargain. I inherited her creativity, the ability to make something out of nothing on a very tight budget. We share a deep love of color and strategically-placed throw pillows. But then I got married, and we moved away.
7 years. I missed 7 years with my mom. Just typing that makes me incredibly sad.
I also know that moving away was good for my marriage. We were able to solidify ourselves as a unit without interference. We were free to make terribly stupid financial decisions with no one around to tell us so, and that independence turns out to be serving us well as we walk through the trenches of parenthood with ailing parents.
Most of my friends don’t know what that’s like — their mothers are still vibrantly making passive aggressive comments, baking quiche, and cruising around town as they always have. They are enthusiastic babysitters, reveling in the “golden age” of their lives. I have young parents, just 58.
Having a sick parent when I’m also a parent is lonely and hard and there’s a lot of cursing and a lot of wine and a lot of pretending nothing is wrong and a lot of crying in the middle of the produce section. Mostly there is a lot of Robbie having no idea what to do to make it better, because he can’t fix this one. He can’t make my mom not have cancer. All he can do is hold my hand while I deal with it, and all I can do is thank God I married the aimless drifter with the scruffy face, the one who wanted to someday own a bar — a BAR!
That man is the one who rubs my feet while I cry because he doesn’t know what to say to make it better.
He is my anchor.
Grief is a darkness. It’s a black blanket that coats me, criss-crossing my face and down my abdomen, squeezing out my breath. Sometimes, if I lie down, it is a weight that makes sitting up an impossibility. So I lie there, and I wait; eventually, I can stand up again.
Grief is so damn heavy.
Grief is a liar. It tells me I’m too weak to survive the circumstances that brought it about. Sometimes I believe it.
Grief is a truth-teller. It exposes every raw edge of my character in the middle of the grocery store on a Monday. It grabs me by the throat in the bookstore and sometimes I have to cancel plans or turn back home to repair the eye makeup that I just cried off in the car.
Grief is a prioritizer. It shows you what is actually important, and what isn’t.
Spoiler alert: a lot isn’t important.