I crest a hill with the hard morning light in my face, that brittle iced sun that awakens me on my walk. I’m thinking about my mother, and I’m thinking about me and outloud I whisper
as if it’s a ghost and saying it quietly enough will keep it from hurting me.
I am 31 going on 32. Then, I was 11 going on 12, that netherworld between girl and woman, the inbetween, the sweet snuggled in the midst of sour. I had budding breasts and the turbulence and growing cowering inside me, stuffed down small where I didn’t need to feel it.
Today I’m staring down an ultrasound and the sniggering voices reminding me that cancer in the lady parts runs in my blood. I avoid the rotting breasts of my adoptive mother, in exchange for the knowledge that the women in my family die painful deaths from ovarian cancer, when it doesn’t move so fast as to not bother with a name.
My husband reminds me that bad things do NOT always happen, that sometimes the coincidence is just that. I stare around me and see a family I love deeply, a marriage I treasure, a life I’m growing into more and more. I hold my breath, feeling the shoe as it dangles, and I wait for it to fall.
Twenty years cannot erase the itch in the back of my neck telling me that bad things happen, all the time, and it’s only a matter of when, not if. I may be quiet about it, I may not mention it, but in my heart, I wait for things to fail. I trust not that everything will work itself out, despite the proof in my life that things do, with or without help.
I am mostly healed. I miss her voice, and I tear up when my daughters ask me why my heart burns for her. I envy other women their battles with their mothers, the silly disagreements I’ll never have. I don’t remember her holding me, or kissing me, ever. I mourn those. Some of this, I won’t ever be over-you never get over loss, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a fool. You would never fully get over losing a spouse-why should we a parent?
I am healed in the knowledge that she loved me, was proud of me, and would be proud of me. That she would adore her granddaughters, be pleased to spoil them. I am safe in the knowledge that my happiness would supply hers, even if we disagreed on the source.
I am healed knowing that she did what she thought was right, so many years ago, when a doctor told her not to worry. I am healed knowing she fought, for herself, for me, my brother, her husband.
She teaches me lessons from the grave. To go to the doctor when I think something is wrong. To go again when I’m not convinced of what they tell me. To do the tests.
I’ll still worry until cleared, until the odd rattle and churn in my belly stops. The old fear of losing everything I never knew I wanted, it hangs over me like a droopy belly, pregnant with fear and terror.
She was braver. I can be braver still.