The questions are simple and familiar. I respond in a cadence I’m not acquainted with. The woman speaking, the woman sitting there, in the most hated of black tights, she’s not someone I’ve known. The answers pour from her mouth like oil, slithering, her laughter meant to charm and bewitch, entwine. Her entire demeanor screams “Like me. I’m fabulous!”
Where the hell she came from is news to me. I haven’t seen this woman in, well, ever.
Days later, having “a serious conversation” about stuff like end dates and payouts, I hear her again, making it clear that I expect what’s deserved by law, and also, by courtesy and fairness. The voice also stands firm and lets it slip in a very subtle way that if the letter of the law isn’t followed, there is no concern in taking it somewhere that could get very complicated.
Her entire demeanor screams “Go ahead. Try and fuck my shit up. I’d enjoy the fight.”
She’s news to me as well. But she fills up my chest like nothing else and I’m perversely proud of the woman who finally found a hill she’s willing to die on. Her back is straight and for moments, I imagine this to be the woman I should have been all along.
Fearless, breathless and utterly charming.
Kate wrote a post last night that hit upon something I’ve been thinking about all week. Sorta.
2009 is twenty years since my mother died of cancer. Grief has underpinned my life so much in the past 20 years it’s not funny-it’s crawled into bed with me, held my hand as I brought new life into the world, rattled my cage at any sign of newness. And it hangs with me still-my need for attention after those formative years spent worrying about everyone else, everyone else thinking I was strong enough and didn’t need to be weak. My fear for my children, my fear for them because of me, my worry that anyone I come close to will screw me over, not might, WILL.
These are itches in my brain that I’ll spend the rest of my life attempting to negotiate and move past. They are part of me. They are no longer strange glitches to acknowledge and then push off the coffee table, they are part of me, and learning to worth with them-that’s the struggle.
But the hardest part, the plain grief, the shuddering quake in my chest, it’s long gone. There are days when I feel wrong almost to be ok with what was, sullen and rude to not still feel that cold hand inside me. Days where it’s easy to imagine she is gone from me, totally and irrevocably lost to my ears and fingers.
The pain allowed the mystery to stay true and follow. Strangely I miss that, the only communion we had, her voice lost amid the trees and the ducks in summer, my ears deafened by children and chili and Sunday mornings lazy in arms.
20 years now, and she is really truly gone from me. I see her everywhere, her image, her doing, her will, her morals, rising up in my like some terrible voice. My thoughts are sometimes her thoughts, and it’s like the years have compressed and for just a second, we are the same people, just two young mothers trying to make it all work. Moments as these are understanding and forgiveness, as years ago they were anger and sadness.
I get it now. Perhaps that’s why the ache is gone. I understand, fully, the sacrifice she had made for us, for herself. I understand the woman who stared at her child, wondering about the years ahead. I understand that for the woman in me to unravel and become, I had to start letting the child die, let her free after holding on to her for dear life for so very long, the only thing I had known was safe and loved me back.
They had to tell my mother to die. In no uncertain terms my father asked her doctors to tell her to let go. Her will was that strong, the fire in her belly and heart so warm and unwavering that she wouldn’t believe she was leaving us, not until there was really no choice, and she made the long trip home to die.
I understand now, that she spoke with a voice she had never heard, and felt it buffer her from the inside, to stay, to last just a little more, the sweetness of life and love just so right. I understand now that this voice is more than just the woman i was meant to be. It’s my birthright.
The last, and most tender gift a mother can give her little girl.