Monday, February 23, 2015


A ho-hum Wednesday morning. I wake up, put the coffee on, wait for the sound of small footsteps trampling down the stairs, wait for the rush of three breakfasts and three clothes changes and two backpacks, school lunches, goodbye kisses, walking to the bus stop, still in my pajamas. Busy busy busy, always so busy, rushing from one thing to another, one child to another, dodging grief that threatens to sit on my chest until I cannot do anything but gasp for air. My dad is gone. He is gone, gone at the hands of what used to be one of us, and everything written on the lists is checked off, done. Funerals, packing boxes of his things, the first court date. Now I just miss him, a hole in the seemingly perfect little world I had created for myself. So us girls, we check on each other more often, say I love you with more meaning, mend things that need mending between family members, because if you can't learn love from this, then there's no hope for any of it. A normal Wednesday morning with text messages to make sure everyone is okay, or as okay as we can be. This is what we do now: tally the living. Make sure everyone is accounted for, because it can sneak up on you in a second, someone leaving. During the third cup of coffee I realize I haven't spoken to mom in a couple of days, send off a fast text just to check in with her. "Everything ok? Love you, call me after work." I head off into my day, laundry, errands, cleaning, taking care of the baby. I notice I haven't heard back from mom yet, but know that it is probably because she is at work. I text the sisters to see if they have heard from her, we compare notes about when we each last spoke to her. I was not the last, so I feel better. I send another, joking text to mom. "I am calling the police if you don't text me back, I swear to God. Don't be alarmed when they come knocking on your door to check on you, haha. You can yell at me later." Haha. She can yell at me later. I am joking, nervous laughing, knowing in my head that she's just busy at her new job and knowing in my bones that this is not true. I head to the chiropractor for therapy, an injection in my spine for nerve damage. I will always remember this, and, after today, will never return to this doctors office. I take the baby to a quick lunch, but we never make it in the door. I am not out of the car before my phone rings, and it is one of the sisters, one of the sisters that I don't regularly talk to on the phone so I know this means business.------------------------------------------------------------------- Click. I am five years old, helping mom wallpaper the dining room. There are only three babies, so we still live in a small house, and mom is wallpapering the dining room. I read books beside her in the sun coming through the windows, listening to her hum as she works. I sit up to watch, noticing that the pattern on the paper looks like tiny duck's feet in a basket. She laughs and says I am imaginative and quite observant. The whole exchange is written in my baby book, and I find it years later. But I already remembered.---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Click. I am eight years old, and my parents are going out for the night, leaving us with a babysitter. Watching her get dressed in her dressy clothes, carefully applying her pink lipstick. I think she must be the most beautiful woman in the world, and I want to be her when I grow up. She winks at me as she sprays perfume on each wrist. Later that night they will get home and I will hear both of them come into my room to tuck me in tighter. My mom lingers longer to give me an extra hug, and I smell her perfume on her neck, mixed with cigarette smoke. "Some people were smoking", she said, and I nod, not caring because it smelled grown up and good to me, like how probably fancy people would smell at midnight on a Saturday.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Click. I am twelve years old and at track practice. She is there helping to assist the coach, she used to run track, too, and helps out when she can. Setting up the hurdles and walking back to the starting line I catch her staring and smiling, and I throw my hands up in the air. "What?!" I yell, maybe a small bit annoyed. "Look at your long legs. You are so graceful. I don't know how you glide over those things so easily. I am so proud of you." I roll my eyes, since that is what you do when you are twelve and your mom says things, anything, in front of your friends. But I smile when I turn around to run. I am loved, and she is proud of me. I remember this. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Click. I am seventeen and fighting with her. I want to go out with friends, and she says that I will go upstairs and change clothes before I leave. I say awful things to her, but I don't stop, not considering how I am hurting her. I am seventeen, I don't care yet. She stands strong and I change clothes so I can go. Years later as a parent I say I am sorry for the things that were said, and she shrugs it off. But I know since I am a parent how hurtful that would be, and I always remember this.------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Click. I am getting married and everyone I love is around me, fussing over me, bringing my flowers, helping me dress. My parents, long divorced, are there and hugging each other and crying over letting their first girl go. It is a perfect, flawless memory, and I always remember it.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Click. I am fending off phone calls every ten minutes asking if I am in labor yet, if the baby is coming. I think that never in the history of babies has a baby been so anticipated, and I wish they would anticipate her a little less. Everyone at the hospital and she is here. I have never known love like this and my heart is bursting at the seams and I am so so tired and I look at my mom and think "Oh. So, that was this." I know it all in an instant. We went from mother and daughter to something more in the blink of an eye. Mothers, friends.-------------------------------------------------- Click. There are hundreds of phone conversations, more babies, tears, but mostly laughter and joy and food. Then the one conversation that sounds like screeching tires when I remember it now: Your dad is dead. Then blurry, stumbly days and weeks go by and we bury my sweet dad and we talk to police and we steel our hearts against what is coming. The hearing and saying of things that should never be heard or said, things that people wouldn't guess unless we told them, they are that bad. The information sometimes leaks in slowly, we are not privy to everything they know, surprisingly. This feels like insult upon insult, that we are kept in the dark about such important things. But somehow each trickle feels more like a blow to the gut, sucking all of the air out of the room, when we ask for information it feels like asking for a black eye. Still, we call each other, we check on each other and care for each other and form what feels like a tiny makeshift island of survivors who only have each other to lean on while all of the shiny happy people pass by us, smiling and wondering what is wrong.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Click. I am talking to my husband, saying that mom doesn't seem to be doing too well, she is not eating and she doesn't sound good. None of us are good, that word hasn't entered the conversation yet. But even still, this is a lot to handle, knowing ones own can grow into what he has grown into, doing the heinous things he has done to someone that she cares about, had babies with, was in love with once. We talk about the possibility of asking her to live with us in the future, let us take a little of the burden off of her just for a bit. We decide we will keep talking about it and ask her when she seems to get worse, if that happens. I will always, always remember this.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Click. Sobbing, screaming at me that she is gone. My sister doesn't sound like herself, I don't know who this is that I'm talking to right now. What is happening? No, this is not that, she's just at work we will get her home and ask her what the hell she was thinking, making us worry about her like this. I am so mad that she would make us worry about her like this. But as I am thinking this my car is steering itself out of the parking lot, and I find myself at my husband's office, so my hands at least know what is true, has been true since early that morning while I went about my busy day, kissing kids and packing lunches and folding tiny clothes. I fall to the pavement outside the building, screaming that she's gone, my mom is dead, but not crying. My body will not let me cry. I heave and spit and lay there, but I do not cry. I think, "I am out of tears, a person can ACTUALLY run out of tears. Huh." So I sit, staring at nothing, at the sky, smoking cigarette after cigarette until my fingers burn, because that seems like the only thing to do: look up at the sky for answers and smoke. I don't even know where they are coming from, someone is handing them to me one after another and no one is speaking. I am an hour away, and I think that my sisters are there, at her house, and click. I think about the news reports of a large black bag being wheeled out of my dad's house on a gurney, into an ambulance and I know what my sisters are seeing at that moment. I know they will be the first inside her house, all the photos of grandkids and finger paintings and her sink probably still full of dishes from the day before. I think of my mom's mom and sisters at the beach on vacation, getting the news that we were all too late and they are too far away. Still I do not cry. My head is a movie, playing every memory that has been burned into it over the course of 32 years, because you don't have to die for your life to flash before your eyes. I do not cry. I realize that I do not have the same thoughts after we were told my dad was gone, when something like that happens it is big, it is news, there are questions, it is not commonplace and it is shocking to your core, so you scream questions and demand answers and there are people to help answer those questions and there are things to do to make you feel useful, like you are doing something. But this. This is a slipping. It is a slipping away of her, and it is too late to grab at anything. There are small questions to ask later, but they won't make a difference at all, not in the slightest. There is no one to point a finger at, to arrest, to place all of our hatred onto. This is a slow sliding away, her sliding through my hands, sliding away and I didn't even know it was happening.