The second year without her
“Are you sure you want to put your roommate down as your emergency contact?”
“Hell, what if you forget to cook breakfast that morning?” asked an overly aggressive, semi-sexist personal trainer during a free consultation I wish terribly I had slept through instead.
“I’m sure,” I said confidently, dodging — if only for a second — a bullet I knew damn well was going to whip around and rattle my ribcage. (I was right.) Not three minutes later would she seek out my medical history and ask my father’s age.
“My dad is dead,” I said, “but he would have been in his early seventies.”
“Honey, I’m so sorry. How long ago?”
“Seven years now.”
“Well, what about your mother?”
“Oh, she’s dead two years this October.”
The thirteenth month feels like a brand new chapter, if only for a sentence or two.
By fourteen, you stop measuring the passing of time in months as her absence begins to announce itself, instead, in moments. And, quite frankly, those moments — triggered by, for example, her nonattendance at a wedding or her presence, still, on speed dial — don’t give a fuck where you are, what time it is or (as it turns out) whether or not it’s your best friend’s birthday.
See also: your first time back at the gym in a year or an awkward first-date with a sports writer who you can only assume never texted you back because your baggage was showing.
“What do you write about?”
“A lot about drinking and a lot about death.”
By the beginning of year-two, the world as you once knew it has been remodeled — or, at the very least, provided a feasible blueprint. You’ve gotten up, you’ve gotten on and you’ve kind of, sort of gotten your shit semi-together.
There are four walls around you but, now that the room’s stopped spinning (and you’ve finally paid off the better part of her debts), it feels like they’re caving in. You come to the harsh realization that, with a lack of loose ends to tie up, the gravity of a loved one’s death can come crashing in — anytime, anywhere — with the same intensity as the morning after. And it does.
In the 24 months since my mother died, I’ve battened down the hatches more times than I can count. I’ve spent sunny afternoons in bed with the lights off, self-diagnosed myself with a type of depression I found on the Internet and even cancelled an appointment with the head of the New York City Police Department Press Office because I thought I was having a heart attack. (Oh, anxiety. You devil.)
And still, I’ve weathered each storm (and the subsequent night terrors), just as mom did when dad died.
I’ve learned to laugh harder and to open a wine bottle without breaking the cork. I’ve learned to balance my checkbook, to refresh the weather app before leaving for work and THAT WRITER’S BLOCK IS REAL AND IT TOTALLY FUCKING SUCKS. I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff and that whiskey makes me an animal. I’ve learned the importance of “I love you” and that, sometimes, it’s better to just say, “No. I don’t want to. I’d rather sit in and order Chinese.”
I’ve screamed and I’ve cried (and I’ve scream-cried outside of McDonalds). I’ve moved mountains (see: filing my taxes) and I’ve cowered in fear (see: paying said taxes). I’ve tried new things like seeking therapy and opting for goat cheese and keeping my dentist appointments (all but one of those she’d truly be proud of).
I’ve grown closer to friends and family who, like I, never asked to be a part of this club.
And, most importantly, I’ve accepted that — whether it’s been two years or seven — it’s okay to not be okay because, contrary to popular belief, time isn’t a miracle worker.