November 2, 2012 by 8junebugs
It’s four years today that you’ve been gone. I would’ve been okay — last year, I was pretty okay — but this year…
This year’s different.
This is the year you were waiting for.
Well, technically, 2013 is the year you were really waiting for. A granddaughter in January and a grandson* in April! At this rate, you could at least imagine catching up with Uncle Steve in the grandchildren column in, like, five years (don’t count on it). And 2014 is probably going to be even more fun. Babies, babies everywhere, and this time, they’re ours.
But this is the year when I probably would’ve needed you most.
Next year, you would’ve had all kinds of advice from 30+ years ago that I would have had to politely dodge. No, we’re not supposed to let newborns sleep on their tummies anymore. No, we’d rather not use formula if we can avoid it. Yes, I know, cloth diapers were WAY harder when you were a new mom. Yes, I remember about using frozen french fries to soothe teething gums.
This year, I’m dealing with countless medical practitioners and administrators, 65% of whom are awesome and 35% of whom make me want to call my mom and complain about how awful it is to be bad at your job when your job is to help overly hormonal people whose jeans don’t fit anymore. “First-time parents are the worst,” I imagine them saying. Well, so’s your office staff. (They are very, very nice. They’re just also kind of awful.)
Next year, we probably would’ve been able to get you out here — babies will get visited, even if their parents will not. You’d have talked about maybe moving back out here, which would have been a disastrous idea, but we would have played along, because BABIES. We would’ve known, too, that putting you closer to your grandson would also take you away from your granddaughter, and we all know that wouldn’t happen.
You thought the 500 miles between Cornwall and DC would be too many with a grandbaby in the mix; “I don’t want to just be a picture on the wall,” you often said. Yet, here we are.
This year, sharing the news would’ve been a lot easier, because it would’ve been your news, too. Much like when we told Graham’s mom, we could’ve just let you in on the secret, then taken the dog out for a walk while you called everyone in your address book, as is right and proper. As weird as it isn’t for me to share things via the internet, your role as my bullhorn — which was your privilege as a mom and your duty as a cosmetologist — made announcements more personal, even when folks didn’t hear it from me. (And no one would have been happier for you than Uncle Steve.)
It’s one of those things you don’t think about until it happens, but…damn. Without you or Memere around, Ma, news moves through the ranks so slowly! And as much as I love every member of my family, I can count on one hand the number of relatives I could comfortably call up for a convo about my uterus. (Dad’s probably not on that list, but I do it anyway. No one said being the last parent standing was easy.)
This year, I could use a mom to tell me that it’s okay that I only cry at ultrasounds and the seemingly gargantuan task of managing a full-time job, a full-time life, and a full-time pregnancy. I don’t even do that much; I can’t fathom trying to knit or sew or run right now…or stay up past 9 pm. I am tired and somewhat bewildered, and we’re not even halfway to the starting gate.
So to speak.
This is the year when excited coworkers, knowing I moved out here fairly recently, will ask, “Where’s your mom? Can she be here when you have the baby?” Well, no, actually, and I still haven’t gotten the hang of how you’re supposed to say that your mom is dead. My instinct is to say “died,” but “passed away” is more delicate and seems to be easier on the other person.
It’s been four years. You’d think I’d have figured that one out by now, but it feels awkward every time.
In a lot of ways, it’s really not that bad, Ma. I’ve got Graham, and I’ve got LadySupport from coast to coast. I’ve got amazing aunts and cousins and old friends and new friends and friends’ moms and helpful colleagues and Graham’s mom (who remembers when you two talked in the ’90s about what cute babies we’d make — don’t pretend it didn’t happen). I’ve got data and books and blogs and the conviction that comes with being a woman in her 30s who’s pretty goddamned sure of herself most of the time. Even so…
Even so, it’s not the same as having your mom around.
I think the idea of missing out on this was even harder on you, though, than it is on me today. Four years ago, whether you admitted it or not, you knew you wouldn’t be here for the “I’m in labor” call. Your doctors may have pulled some of their punches, but they never lied to you. You knew you’d miss your grandkids’ first words, first Christmases, first birthdays, and first broken hearts. There would be no concerts or plays or graduations, no pictures to show off in the shop. You wouldn’t get to buy the “When Mom and Dad say no, ask Grandma!” shirt. You wouldn’t know them, and all they would know of you is what we could tell them when they were ready.
When we are ready, too. Some days, like today, it’s hard to know where to even begin.
It’s hard to remember, sometimes, that you would have missed some of those things anyway. The way KidBrother and I were raised — surrounded by family, within easy walking or driving distance for all celebrations — was never going to be realistic for my kid. You knew I wasn’t planning to live in Vermont again, and I don’t think it would’ve surprised you when we decided to move back to California. But I would’ve had to face the interminable guilt of keeping a whole country between you and your grandson. (Dad can Skype; your house may still be stuck with dial-up, if anything.)
And what’s weird about remembering that, about knowing that we would have had to negotiate holidays and vacation time, remembering what that did to our family in the long run, makes this harder by…not making it harder. Sometimes the hardest thing about you not being here is that it makes some things simpler. Definitely not better, but simpler. Less complicated.
Admitting that really, really sucks. The trade-off — less complicated logistics for less time with you — could not be less worth it. But it also means that the worst part of missing you, this year, is knowing what you’re missing out on now and what our son will miss out on in the years to come.
You really would have had a blast with this.
I love you, Ma. I hope he gets your athletic ability, your work ethic, and your sense of fun.
P.S. It’s a boy. Probably. There’s about a 1% chance that they’re wrong — if so, we’ll find out in a couple of weeks.