I’m turning 42 in a few days, can you believe it? I’ll keep getting older and you’ll always remain 35 years old. I’m pretty sure you’d find a lot of joy in teasing me about that for eternity.
It just occurred to me that Mom was 42 when her Dad, Grandpa Don, passed away. I could never have imagined that when I reached that same age that both you and Mom would be gone and I’d be completely on my own. No family, no children of my own, no husband or special man to share my life with…but hey, I’m still here, trudging along because that’s what I’m supposed to do, I guess.
I’m doing a little better than when I last wrote you, I guess… but hiding away still just feels like the right thing to do most days. I know that people mean well when they offer up all kinds suggestions like, “Please call me, if you ever feel sad and need to talk.” It’s a really nice thought and I know it comes from a place of loving kindness. But these days, it seems very few people answer the phone anymore. Myself included. It’s far easier, impersonal as it is, to text people instead. I remember one night feeling pretty sad and needing to talk to someone; I tried calling 6 people in a row, not one person answered. Either I had horrendously terrible timing or I should take the hint that no one really wants to answer the phone when they know there is a good chance they are going to hear whining and/or sobbing on the other end of the line… for which I honestly wouldn’t blame them one bit!
I get it, I really, really do. A conversation I overheard at the salon on Tuesday night sums it all up. The gal in the chair next to me was telling her stylist about a friend of hers who suffers from depression; she said it was “so exhausting” being her friend and that it was really hard talking to her sometimes because the negative feelings can be sort of “contagious” and she just doesn’t want to deal with it some days. She said, “I know she’s really trying and all but she’s just not getting better.” That’s totally me! After all these years and years of therapy and medication changes it still comes in heavy waves that knock my to my knees and leave me gasping for breath. It’s getting old, you know? And I wouldn’t judge anyone for wanting to distance themselves from me during those times.
I actually had a friend in college who kind of “ghosted” and disappeared, stopped communicating with me. A few years after that we sort of reconnected and I asked her about it. She told me it was just too hard; she kept trying to help me but I just wasn’t getting better and she grew tired of trying so she quit. It hurt to hear that, but I understand what she was saying. That’s sort of why I feel it’s easier to just withdraw and remove myself from connecting with others; it feels better to not call on anyone and avoid feeling the pain of unanswered phone calls or the humiliation when they look at me with pity and disappointment when I slip up and fall into my old pattern of self-harm. It’s very possible that all 6 of those people were truly busy that night; most of my friends have husbands, children, families and important jobs. However, what my depression tells me is that all of them looked at the caller ID, rolled their eyes and said to themselves, “I just can’t deal with this right now.” But like I said, I really understand! I wouldn’t want to hear my same old sob story time after time, either if given a choice. That’s exactly why I tend to deal with it alone… not only to avoid feeling the possible rejection but also to spare them the agony of talking to a “Debbie Downer.” That phrase is a bit of a joke… but there’s also a lot of truth to it. That’s one reason these letters help me so much– I can talk to you about all of the things that I don’t want to dump on my friends. I dig that about writing to you.
It really sucks that this week I’ve been rushing to my mailbox after work every day not in search of a birthday card from Mom but for the copy of her autopsy that I should be receiving any day now. Not cool. Mom was the one who made my birthdays so, so special. I’m not looking forward to this one. If she couldn’t be with me, she’d order me a cake and flowers and make sure Leashya could pick them up and help me celebrate. She made all occasions so special. Every single year on August 11, the anniversary of my car accident in 1996, she would send me flowers and tell me how grateful she felt that I survived and that I was still in her life. That day was like a bonus birthday for me because she always took time out that day to tell me how very special my life was to her. This past August was the ONLY year in 19 years that she didn’t send flowers and she actually sent me an email to apologize for that. She was going through a divorce and about to move out and live alone for the very first time in her 65 years and yet she was feeling bad for not sending flowers to ME. But that’s just how she was… she always put us kids and our feelings before her own. ALWAYS. I’m very aware of how very lucky it makes us that we had a Mom who made us feel so important to her.
For some reason I was just reminded of one of the times that I auditioned for the Minnesota State Fair. I don’t know what year it was, but I do know that it was after 1997– that was the year I got in and actually made it to the finals and got to perform (something I had written myself) at the Grandstand in front of 11,000 people. (That VHS recording makes me so happy because you can hear her cheering for me soooo very loudly. She was so proud of me that day. But back to the other audition… she was hurt that I didn’t let her know I was auditioning because she wanted to come see me and cheer me on. I told her there was “nothing to see, really.” I figured if it was good enough, I’d make it into the competition, but if I didn’t get chosen then that would be my validation that it wasn’t worth the trip for her. She didn’t care. Regardless of what other people thought, she was always there to support and cheer me on and was always proud. I regret not letting her come support me that day– there are a lot of people who didn’t have a Mom care as much she did and sometimes I really took that for granted.
I miss her so, so much. I saved some truly bizarre things after she died… things I am not ready to part with. I should be ashamed to admit this, but I found a little clump of her hair on the floor of her bedroom… I kept it and it’s still in my jewelry box. Her toothbrush now sits on the bookshelf in my bedroom because I’m not sure what to do with it but I can’t bear to throw it away. The same toothpaste tube she was using is in my bathroom drawer and I use it, but VERY sparingly because I don’t ever want it to be empty and feel as though I have to get rid of it because why on earth would I save an empty tube of toothpaste? I still have a bag of chocolate covered pretzels that she sent to me in a Halloween care package; I can’t bring myself to eat them because she touched them; she made them with her own hands, placed them in a little plastic gift bag and wrote my name on the tag. As a thinking adult, I realize these are just things and aren’t the real essence of Mom. But there is something so different about holding things she touched that make me feel closer to her somehow.
If you and Mom could visit me in a dream again soon I’d say that would be just about the best birthday gift I could ever imagine. So if you could get on that dude, that would be great.
Miss you guys… hug each other for me.