Senza Mamma

I haven’t written in a really long time. It feels odd to write again. Good, but odd.

I’m sitting in one of my favorite coffee shops (which is next door to one of my favorite yarn shops… go figure). I’m sad. It’s three days before Christmas. My husband is sick. I’m just getting over the worst of being sick.

This is my first Christmas without my mom.

I’m not sure what about that is so hard for me. I don’t know exactly what about her loss has been the most complicated or difficult.

There are days when I’m not sure I know much at all.

When I walked into the coffee shop this morning, I was greeted at the door by a beautiful baby girl and her obviously tired mom. The mom was beautifully turned out with fashionable clothes and a face of impeccably applied make up. But I could tell the look on her face was secretly saying to the other moms out there, “I’m tired of chasing my kid around and I really just want to sit down and take a nap.” Any mom of a toddler, past or present, knows that face. We’ve all been right there in the middle of the tenth-time-my-kid-has-bolted-for-the-door blues.

Once I went through the line and had my enormous vat of latte and a scone with the raspberry jam baked in, I noticed that the baby was the younger of two babies (the older not more than 2 or 3) and that the dad and one set of grandparents were there as well. It was just an ordinary family. There was nothing particularly outstanding about any of it, except for the beautiful smile of the baby girl and the one fact that made my heart hurt: they were a beautiful family, together for the holidays and enjoying each other so much.

I never had that.

Mind you, I have a wonderful husband and two beautiful kids of my own. What I never had was the grandparent portion of that scene. My parents were not really interested in the work of being grandparents, and my husband’s parents were never really even in the picture at all. That Norman Rockwell scene I was witnessing was making me jealous of something I never had — something that I would never have.

On the outside, that little family, with all its internal flaws and foibles, seemed perfect. I’m sure it wasn’t. Logically, I know there’s no such thing as a perfect family. It’s easy for anyone on the outside looking in to think what they see is perfect, but familial perfection is a myth. Appearances are, indeed, deceiving.

However, for a moment, I just longed for a time when my kids were little and at least the possibility of loving and doting grandparents existed.

My girl is almost 20 and my boy almost 15. Their imperfect mom could barely make it through a high school swim meet last night without having a panic attack that put her in bed before 10pm. I feel like a failure this year. The tree is bare, the house undecorated, and the Christmas knitting unfinished — three days before Christmas. Part of it is my new job (which is a reason, not an excuse). Part of it is my son’s illness and schedule. Some of it is my own illness and some is my hubby’s.

A fair part of it is my own conflicting emotions. I don’t feel like I can communicate effectively with anyone in my house right now, and I’m not blaming them. I’m edgy and angry. I’m emotionally all over the place.

Christmas is in my face everywhere I go and I just want to go to bed and pull the covers over my head. I don’t want anyone to see my tears or ask me why hearing Nat Cole sing “The Christmas Song” is making me bawl my eyes out.

I’m torn between wanting Christmas to be picture perfect and not giving a flying fuck if it happens at all.

A year ago, my mom was in the nursing home for Christmas. The year before she was with us, complaining and ready to leave before anyone else had even finished dinner. She never made the holidays fun for my kids. There are no traditions of cookies or special recipes she passed on. My kids don’t have special memories of their Nana.

I swear to God I tried to make it happen. It was like nailing jello to a wall — fucking impossible. Just like my mom.

So why is her loss so hard? Why is Christmas so hard for me this year?

When my mom died, all the hope of change died with her. There will be no do-over. Pushing rewind can’t happen. The last word on our relationship is written, carved in stone.

The picture of the perfect family will never exist for my kids.

It sucks.

Death sucks. Loss sucks. Grief sucks.

Revisionist history is useless and not something I’ve ever indulged in. It is what it is. I don’t like it, but I can’t change it. I can go on. I can change me. I can move forward.

And now? What can I do now? I feel on the verge of tears and lost like a little child, all day everyday. I know I look like a functional adult, but I sure don’t feel like one.

Christmas will come and I will take whatever hope and joy I can from that. Despite my prayers for elves to come clean and decorate my house, I’m pretty sure that won’t happen. I don’t even know if my husband will be well enough to get up, let alone put lights up. I’m not sure my kids are tuned in enough to even notice, at least not enough to do it themselves.

Maybe I’m wrong and this is all just a big pity-party going on in my head.

Feelings may not be facts, but they are real. These are mine.

Regardless of whatever bah humbug bullshit this may all seem like, I am trying to hang on to some form of hope — if not for this year, then for years to come. After all, I’m not the one who died. I’m alive.

Where there’s life, there’s hope. I have to be the hope I’m looking for. Once again, I can only start with me.

From my imperfect little family and all its issues, I hope everyone has a happy holiday season. I’m just hoping to survive. Anything more will be gravy.