I think this is the first year I haven’t been sad during the anniversary of my mother’s death. It snuck up on me and the grand day arrived before I even knew it.
In year’s past, without even realizing it on a conscious level, I would get sad for anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks. I’d start searching my thoughts and feelings to figure out what was wrong and realize it was her anniversary. And for you long-time readers, I’m sure you know I’m referring to my foster mother, not my step-mother.
I’d like to think I’ve reached a point of happiness and contentedness in my own life that I no longer yearn for her in my life. She was only in my life for a few brief years as a child but all my best memories of childhood revolve around her. Even though I was adopted1, I never felt like she treated me any different. I was her baby boy and the memories I have of her are full of love and good things.
For most of my adult life I always wished she was still around. I felt like I needed her. I felt like if she’d survived that brutal fight with cancer my life would have been vastly different. I can’t know for sure how things might have been different. My soul ached for her in the early (miserable) days of adulthood. I still remember crying myself into exhaustion on her grave one year in my late 20’s. I’d been away for several years and felt like I was disrespecting her memory. I was so lost as a person back then. I felt robbed of her love and potential influence. I remember being embarrassed it took longer than I thought it should to find her plot. The cemetery had grown and changed over the years and many of the familiar markings were gone. I remember how completely adrift, cold, and utterly alone I felt when I left her grave that day. It was probably the second saddest day in my life.
Obviously, I survived and moved forward. And yet, every year around this time a wave of sadness would hit me. Some years I knew in advance and embraced it, other years it just happened and I would scramble to figure out why I was so sad. This year the big day came and I was fine. It was a shock to look down at my phone and realize the day. I felt a small pang of sadness for a moment and then smiled.
I still remember her and wish she had been a bigger part of my life. I still wish she was here in this world with me. None of those things have changed. So what has changed? I haven’t forgotten her. Is it just time and age? It might be a bit of both but I like to think it’s another sign I’ve grown up. Gone is the injured boy locked inside the body of a young adult man. In his place is a man mature and experienced enough to handle the world and his own shortcomings head on. It’s certainly been a struggle but I like to think that. I think she would be proud of the man I’ve become.
The memories of her grows slightly more fuzzy every year now. It used to be so crisp and firm in my mind’s eye. I still remember her face but even it is starting to change. I don’t have many pictures of her but the few I do have help me keep her face alive in my memory. I have zero contact with anyone from her side of the family. I haven’t seen any of them in over 25 years. (Many of them didn’t like that I was adopted, from what I’ve been told) There is only my older brother and myself now to remember her. He is in prison and he never talks about her. We’ve never discussed her once since she died actually. He is many years older than me and we were never overly close, even back then. I certainly wasn’t the little brother he wanted. But, as long as he and I remember her, she still lives.
- I didn’t know it at the time. [↩]