Today would be my Mom’s birthday. Eighty-five, I think. I’ll have to calculate to be sure. She’s been gone so long, I’m truly uncertain.
What I do know, without a doubt, is the heartache her early death created. That never goes away.
Simple things stir the ashes of my heartache: a friend’s parents visiting from out of town, a question only Mom could answer, the light of a memory flickering out of my recollections. I’ve learned I must be careful not to breathe too heavily on the embers lest they ignite again. It’s a delicate balance to keep a fire while not letting it combust.
I’ve survived important markers like graduations, marriage and having children without a mother in my life. I’ve even passed the diciest “I’m-now-older-than-she-ever-lived-to-be” stage. Yet her absence continues to infuse my days. It’s dishonest to say it hasn’t. I don’t do dishonesty anymore.
Here is the truth: I miss my mom as much when I feel joy as I do when I feel afraid.
When she died, I felt everyone’s pain and grief. I was a child and didn’t know what to do with other’s fumbling attempts at consolation. After all, how do you console such a loss? In response, I quickly learned to make it look like all was fine. Put on a brave face. Never show how much it hurt. I became adept at hiding on a day such as this.
Today, I no longer hide.
Today, I give voice to my heartache.
Today, I can stand firmly in who I am–a confident, successful, fifty year old writer, mother, and wife–and say all these years later it still hurts. I still miss my mom. I always will.
And I’m going to be just fine.