moments


I realize this blog has been hijacked, sidetracked, just like my life, by recent events.

It’s been hard to work on my novel. Case in point, my abysmal attempt at NaNoWriMo this year.

I can’t really put my finger on why. The lack of focus. The inability to be alone with my thoughts. The distaste for silence. All are factors. But the reality is, if I don’t write, I struggle. So, I need to get back to it. I need to get back to draft #2. I need to figure out where this story is going. I need to see if 1st person POV is really the right POV for this book. I need to see how it all plays out.

I need to finish the fucking thing.

So, I done with life hijacking this blog. I’m rehijacking it back. This is me writing a novel. This is me getting the damn thing done so that my mother’s death is not the only defining event of my 33rd year.

Image: athena via flickr

On the Wednesday before my mother died, I tripped & fell while walking one of the dogs. I skinned my right knee. I came home & cleaned it up without telling her about it. It wasn’t a big deal.

Three days later, the morning of the day she died, after I got out of the shower, I looked at the scab that had formed & wondered if it was infected. She was asleep. I didn’t wake her to ask her, even though I could have. She’s a nurse. She could tell me one way or another. She was also my mother. She’d had plenty of experience with my skinned knees. I just planned to ask her to take a look at it when I got home. I let her sleep. I figured it could wait.

I never got to ask her to look at it.

As my brother & I sat on the beach after scattering her ashes the Friday after she died, my wet pants rolled up above my skinned knee, my father stood over me & asked me what I’d done. I told him. I’d tripped & fell the week before. My father has never been very observant. My mother was the one I relied on to notice the little things. But in that moment, I realized how much things had changed. He was the only one left to notice these things.

Tonight as I showered, the scab finally fell off. And my mother never knew it existed in the first place. Instead I have a scar instead of her. Something to always remind me. I hate that.

Image: Caitlinator via flickr

Twice today when asked how I was, I responded “good.” I didn’t mean it. It just slipped out. When someone asks how you are, it’s natural to say. We don’t often tell people how we really feel.

“How are you?”

“Actually, quite horrible. I feel like I’m losing my mind. I’m surprised I’m making it through the day.”

No, instead, we say: good, fine, not bad. I was caught off guard. It wasn’t how I felt. I should have said, “lost.” I worry that people think I’m doing better than I am. I’m trying to be as honest as possible, but more often than not, I can’t find the words to express what I’m feeling. And the words I do find feel inadequate & fail to convey what is swirling in my head & heart.

Today we went to a mass held in my mother’s honor at the church where my brother & I were baptized. It was said by a priest who was assigned to our school when we were much younger. I hadn’t seen him in 20 years. My mother has always liked him, even after she left the church. He is one of the few priests she likes & considers truly spiritual. It was sheer coincidence that he was now at the church my mother attended as child & my brother & I were baptized in. I was raised Catholic, complete with parochial school. But since my teen years I have been more or less a lapsed Catholic. I have my issues with the church & tend to keep it, & organized religion in general, at arms length. But still I remain de facto Catholic. I’ve found myself sitting in mass from time to time over the years–usually when overseas & feeling homesick. There is something comforting in a routine that was ingrained in my childhood & that can transcend distance & language.

Sitting there this morning, there was some of that comfort. But it’s not homesickness I need to assuage. It was harder than I expected it to be. I guess because I was alone with my thoughts. That is an excrutiating thing these days.

Spent the afternoon at family friend’s house. Nice to just sit & talk–sometimes about my mother, a lot about the past. I can talk about her, but I notice that I still use the present tense when doing so, while everyone else has switched to the past tense. It kills.

Six days until my brother goes back to the East Coast. I’m numb to the reality of it & being alone. Luckily a good friend is coming for a visit on Thursday & staying till Monday night. A nice overlap. But still it won’t be the same. And come Monday night, I’m on my own trying to find my new normal.

I don’t want any of the last 2 weeks to be real. It doesn’t feel real.

I hate this.

Image: patbreana via flickr

Two weeks ago today.

Kept thinking about everything that happened. Hour by hour. Minute by minute.

I’m realizing I’m never going to forget the chain of events of that day. I may be hazy on the night before, the last night I talked to her; but I’ll never forget the day I found her. I hate that. I want both of those days to be just like any other & for her to still be here.

I keep readying to say something to her, but then catch myself as the first word begins to slip out of my mouth. She’s not there to hear it. I do talk to her, but it’s not the same.

My brother booked his ticket back to the East Coast for next Saturday. I know he needs to go back to school & the life he’s started there. It’s what my mother would want. But I don’t know. I’m going to be on my own. I don’t know how I feel about being on my own, without her.

I went to my writing group this morning. It was good to do something from my old routine. We just talked. No writing today. But I did put out there that I still intend to go to the Southern California Writers’ Conference in February & to have something to submit for critique. I’m not sure what it’s going to be at this point. I still can’t see myself starting on draft 2 of my current WIP. I don’t see myself continuing that story. I’m still thinking there is something else floating in my head that I need to get on paper. We’ll see. Maybe after more time has passed I’ll be able to go back to it. I’m just letting myself be open to whatever comes. There’s nothing else I can do.

Image: Unspeakably Awesome via flickr

I’m realizing, it’s going to get harder before it gets better.

Right now, it just feels like she’s away on a trip. She’ll be back.

But at the same time, I know. There are too many reminders for me not to know.

Two weeks ago tonight, right about now, was the last time I spoke to her. She asked me if I wanted to go get something to eat. I said, “No. It’s late. I’m going to bed.” I think she said “good night” to me. I think those are the last words she ever said to me. I hate that I don’t remember better.

I’m going to my writing group tomorrow. I need a distraction. I need something of my old routine. But my old routine is just that, old. I’m struggling here. I never knew how hard it was to remember to breathe, to eat, to wake up.

This is going to get harder before is gets easier. I don’t know how to do this.

Image: yanoche via flickr

I just read my mother’s obituary. It appeared a week ago today in our local newspaper.

I shouldn’t have read it.

I don’t know what kind of day this is going to be now, & I hate that.

Image: blakcat via flickr

Well, today I managed not to have a breakdown. A few tears, but nothing devastating. Still an incredibly heavy feeling hanging over me all day. To say it was a good day is weird. But I guess relatively speaking it was an okay day. I know that this was an anomaly.

Didn’t do much today. We played some online Scrabble & rented some movies. I’m lowering my standards & watching Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Went to dinner with a friend. Nice to get out of the house.

There is still so much to do & deal with, but I’m not rushing it. It will be there tomorrow. And the day after that, and the day after that.

I guess in a way I was able to ignore the reality today. Yes, I had to take care of a few things that did nothing but remind me. But still, I guess I was able to put it out of my mind or at least suppress it.

This morning I decided to create a daily TO DO list. Nothing major. Today just included: go to bank; return phone call; tighten screw on the bathroom doorknob. Got it all done, except the doorknob–couldn’t find a small enough screwdriver. Just going to try & have a few little things to do each day. Who knows, maybe it will help.

I started to do some research for a freelance article. The idea comes out of all this. We’ll see where it takes me. Doing the research gave me something else to do today. A way to feel like I’m being productive or at least moving forward, even when I don’t want to.

I need to start going through her things. I’m dreading it. I want to do it while my brother is still here. I can’t fathom doing it alone. But I’m not ready. I know that when we start it’s going to sink in that this is permanent. She’s not coming back. I will never see her again or have a conversation with her again. Even though I know it’s real, it’s unimaginable.

I can’t think straight. I feel like I’m losing my mind. I really don’t know what I’m doing. This is surreal. I really wish there was a how-to manual for this, but there isn’t.

Just one hour at a time.

Image: dsygrl9 via flickr

Another day.

Basically sucked. And that’s an understatement. I’m at a loss for words that properly describe what I’m feeling & how bad my day was.

I keep wanting to turn around and tell her about something someone said or did. There’s so much to talk about. But she’s not here.

Last night after I posted I did some internet research on grief, bereavement, & losing your mother. Essentially I learned that you never really get over it & it takes a long time to feel even somewhat normal. I learned that there’s a term for what I am now: a “motherless daughter.” And there’s a book. I don’t know that I’m ready to read it anytime soon. I hate that there is a term. I hate that it’s my reality. I learned that there are a lack of resources focused on adult children who lose parents who aren’t elderly. I learned that most grief & bereavement stuff out there is focused on the loss of parents who were suffering from a prolonged illness. I learned that there is a difference in grief between losing someone suddenly vs. losing someone to a prolonged illness.

I had to look at my mother’s death certificate again today. It was the second time I’ve held it in my hands now. The first was last Friday when we picked up her ashes from the mortuary. I took it out of the envelope they handed me to check to see that it was correct. I lost it. Under race, they listed her as “Mexican American.” I was pissed & yelled at the poor staff. While my mother’s family was part Mexican, they were Native American,  & that was how my mother identified herself. She would have been furious that they had put down she was “Mexican American.” I was furious on her behalf. No one ever asked me her race. They just assumed her race because of her last name. The staff apologized. They said the best they could do was get an amendment to the death certificate, a 2nd page; but they can’t change it. I’m still pissed, for her.

I had to look at it again today. I had to hold it in my hands again today. There is a reality to seeing the date of my mother’s death in black & white. That’s probably why I still haven’t read her obituary. The same feeling kept coming over me last week as I looked at the memorial card some family friend’s made up for Saturday’s get-together. On the cover is one of my favorite pictures of my mother. It’s her with the ocean behind her. I took it 7 years ago at the wedding of my best friend. On the inside was the prayer/poem I posted here a couple days ago on one side, & her name & birth & death date on the other. Seeing that end date was surreal. It still is surreal. To think that there is one day when it all just ended. I can’t wrap my head around it, because I still can’t wrap my head around the reality that she is gone & that was it.

I cried today. A lot. I know I’m not going to stop anytime soon.

Right now my brother & his girlfriend are staying with me in this house. I wouldn’t be breathing if they weren’t here. But the reality is they need to go back to their lives & the East Coast where they are now living. My mother would want that. They’ll probably be here a few more weeks. Thank God. But now, the reality is looming there that eventually they will have to go back & I will be here in this house alone again. You might think that I’d have a problem being in this house given that my mother died in it, but I don’t. That’s not what I’m dreading. It’s the being alone without the distraction. Try as they may, the dogs are only so good at that.

I’ve decided I’m just going to be honest here. Sitting here, typing this, is the best I’ve felt all day. Writing is cathartic.

I’m going to use this blog to keep track of where I am & where I’ve been. A record of the bad days & the good ones to come. I want to be able to tell when the good out number the bad again.

Image: iessi via flickr

My mother died a week ago yesterday. It was completely unexpected. Although she was 63 and had some health issues, she’d been doing fine. There was no way to see it coming.

Five years ago, I left behind a career & life that had left me unsatisified at its best, and miserable at its worst. I moved home to LA & to my mother. It was supposed to be temporary. I ended up staying.

I came home last Saturday to find her dead.

I came home five years ago to find myself. In the process, I found a relationship with my mother as an adult. I had worried that it was weird that I had little desire to move out in these last five years and get back out on my own. But today, I realize how lucky I was to have had that time.

So here I am.

We scattered her ashes 2 days ago. I know it was exactly as she wanted. It was perfect–for lack of a better word. A beautiful and somewhat comforting moment.

Family & friends gathered to remember her and celebrate her life yesterday. I’m sure everyone else would tell you it was a nice get-together. For me it was torture. I sat there in the backyard of family friends looking for my mother. She was always there at all their other gatherings. When looking at pictures of me & my best friend when we were younger, I had to ask her mother how old we were in the picture. That killed.

And today, I realized that getting to & through the funeral was the “easy” part–and I use the term “easy” loosely. The constant visits by friends & family have stopped. The daily phone calls to see how I’m doing & whether I need anything have ceased. Everyone else is going back to their normal lives. And I’m sitting here trying to figure out what my new “normal” is.

Luckily, my younger brother is here with me & we are going through this together. Even though my parents divorced when I was 12 & their relationship was strained for many years, my mother & father had become friends in recent years–probably out of a need to commiserate about the choices my brother & I made. My father has been incredible. My mother & I had often joked that she needed to stick around because my brother would be an emotional basket-case & my father useless & stoic. I would be the one stuck taking care of them. Instead, she’s not here; my brother is remarkably strong; my father incredibly useful & open; & I’m the one who’s floundering.

As my father reminded me yesterday, I’m grieving & I’m still in shock. I’m supposed to feel like shit & I’m not supposed to know how to feel. On an intellectual level, I know it will get better & I know I will survive. But on an emotional level, I don’t know how I’m supposed to do this & I’ve never felt so lost.

I want to do something. I want to throw myself back into work, but I can’t even focus for more than 2-minutes on anything or go more than an hour without my eyes welling up with tears. I’m not ready to act like everything is normal. I’m not ready for anyone to expect anything of me.

So, I’m doing this. I’m writing. I never intended this blog to become THIS personal, but this feels like I’m doing something. I can focus on this.

The 1st draft of my novel is sitting here on my desktop. I’d planned to finish reading it last weekend & to get started on my 2nd draft this past weekend. That hasn’t happened. And I’m not sure it will. I don’t know if the “me” now can write that story anymore. I’m going to give it time, & see what happens. But I get the feeling I have to let that story go, & look at the new one that is floating in my head. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I can feel something there. We’ll see.

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote in my journal, “Without writing, I am adrift.” Now I realize, without writing & without my mother, I am adrift. I’m clinging to writing to keep me afloat.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.

I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.

I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the star-shine of the night.

I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

–Indian Prayer

Image: carydunn via flickr

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