I was never close to my grandparents. I couldn’t tell you when they died, except that for my mom’s parents I was in middle school and they went about six months apart, and for my dad’s mom I had to work so I didn’t go to the funeral.
It’s a strange feeling, for those of you who haven’t experienced it, to have another date added to the holidays and birthdays that you remember by default: my birthday is September 16th, Kate’s is September 20th, April’s is June 29th, Dad’s is January 20th, Mom’s is January 28th, Christmas is December 25th, Halloween is October 31st, Mom died on July 25th.
There will never be another, larger meaning to this date. If, G-d forbid, some national tragedy, some natural disaster happens on July 25th, if a war starts or ends, if I make a new close friend or fall in love with someone who was born on this date, or if someone I love gets married or has a baby on this date, it will still always be the day Mom died.
It was about now, I think, about three in the afternoon, that we came home from the grocery store, and we had had such a good trip to the grocery store, we had been in such a wonderful mood. Mike hadn’t been yelling at me, good things had been on sale, it was a lovely day and we were talking and laughing and she was already dead and I didn’t know it. I don’t know what time it was when I got the call. When Aunt Pam said, “I’m Mike’s sister,” I was so confused, I knew from her voice, in my gut, I knew something terrible had happened, but I thought she meant my husband mike, and not my stepdad Mike. My brain went, but he doesn’t have a sister.
And when she said, “Mike and Karen were killed in a motorcycle accident,” for a moment I didn’t know who she was talking about. I thought she had the wrong number.
I thought, “Who’s Karen,” for a moment, because of course in my head her name will always be Mom.
If any of you are wondering, it doesn’t go away. It gets easier but it doesn’t end. You still think to yourself, maybe they’re playing an elaborate prank on us, maybe there’s been a terrible mistake and the people on that bike weren’t Mike and Karen at all. They’re old hippies, they’re free spirits, maybe they fucked off to Machu Picchu or something and I’ll get a call tomorrow going, why are you selling our house. You know it isn’t true but part of you still thinks maybe.
I downloaded Twister because it was her favorite movie. I downloaded it that week. I still haven’t been able to watch it.
I don’t know what I’m trying to say, here. Maybe nothing. Maybe just to remember, to share a little bit of remembering with my dash. I’ve never done this before and I’m all alone right now and there’s nobody else to tell.
So I’ll tell you how easily she laughed, how much she snarked at everything, how she smoke like a chimney and drank like a fish and maybe her cholesterol was a little high but she didn’t have any other health problems, she was fit and happy and living the life she loved. I’ll tell how proud she would have been that I’ll have my associate’s soon, and that I’ll be going back to a four-year school in January, ready to get my bachelor’s and move on to grad school. How proud she’d be of me for leaving this marriage even though it’s hard. For taking care of this dog even though it’s a lot of work. For figuring out who I am, even though nobody is here to tell me how.
How proud she was already, of my sister and me, just for living grown and mostly happy in the world.
I’ll tell you how she is the only person in my family I ever came out to, and how she said she didn’t care if I was holding hands with a boy or a girl as long as I was happy. How she always had advice even when I wasn’t looking for any, and how she was usually right even when I didn’t want her to be. How fully she lived, how deeply she loved, how bright she burned when she was with us, how bright she still burns now that she’s gone. How, in some ways, she isn’t really gone at all.
I carry her heart with me (I carry it in my heart). And on my back as I prepare to leave this home I’ve spent three years making, I carry her love and her paintings and her stand mixer and a lock of her hair, I carry them into my new future and she comes with me. So maybe I’m all alone right now, and maybe I’m not, and maybe I never will be.
So maybe nothing will ever be the same again. And maybe that’s okay.