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Month: October, 2017

XXIV

Hi, Mom,

Your 1st grade granddaughter is so stinking wise. You wouldn’t be surprised to hear this. You were always her biggest cheerleader. You understood what a thoughtful and sensitive child she was. You saw through her tantrums and tears, and saw a beautiful and kind soul. I mourn for so much, but the loss of Courtland’s biggest fan is one of the most devastating elements of life without you. How I wish she had the privilege of navigating her teenage years with you by her side. It is so fucking unfair that your love and comfort and the safety it provided are no longer a part of our future.

While sitting on the beach earlier this week (yes! A beach day in late October, with Maja and her family no less!), Courtland sat apart from the group, lazily gazing out at the ocean, burying her feet in the sand. After some time, I approached her and asked if she was okay.

“Oh yes, mom. I’m just listening to the waves. It is the most peaceful sound in the whole world.”

While watching Sunny compete at a swim meet, one of her friends bemoaned, “Sunny’s not winning the race!” And Courtland responded, “That’s okay. What matters is that she does her best and feels proud of herself.”

Upon handing me her 1st grade school photo. “Mom, at the time, I thought I did such a nice smile, but now I see that I look like a first grader, with all those missing teeth.” (I assured her that that is what made it such a nice smile, because it represented this stage in her life so perfectly). Admittedly, it is a classic and hysterically awkward school photo awash with awkward, Jack-o-lantern grin, and I love it.

And lastly, she was in the midst of a meltdown after refusing to brush her hair before bed. Full screams and cries and refusal to follow directions. In those moments, I feel so frustrated as this behavior was long gone in Sunny’s world by the time she hit 1st grade, though I know it does no good to compare the two. After fifteen minutes or so, we had both calmed down and she was merely whimpering into her pillow. She turned to face me and said, “Mama, I know you feel so frustrated when I do this. But I just have so many feelings. Sometimes I don’t know how to not cry.”

And god, my heart ached with the clarity and honesty of her words. Her self-awareness so far beyond her years, beyond what most adults ever possess in a lifetime. You would be so moved by the brilliant and challenging and candid person she is.

But you understood that about her, even though you only ever knew her as a preschooler.

143 Your Ashley

XXIII

Hi, Mom,

Meg shared this poem by adrienne maree brown, and it spoke directly to the most broken pieces of my heart. I’ve bolded what struck my gut most profoundly. What I have discovered as my truth, that which she put to words so succinctly.

Spell for Grief or Letting Go

Adequate tears twisting up directly from the heart and rung out across the vocal chords until only a gasp remains;

At least an hour a day spent staring at the truth in numb silence;

A teacup of whiskey held with both hands, held still under the whispers of permission from friends who can see right through ‘ok’ and ‘fine’;

An absence of theory;

Flight, as necessary;

Poetry, your own and others, on precipice, abandonment, nature and death;

Courage to say what has happened, however strangling the words are… and space to not say a word;

A brief dance with sugar, to honor the legacies of coping that got you this far;

Sentences spoken with total pragmatism that provide clear guidance of some direction to move in, full of the tender care and balance of choice and not having to choose;

Screaming why, and/or expressing fury at the stupid unfair fucking game of it all (this may include hours and hours, even lifetimes, of lost faith);

Laughter, undeniable and unpretended;

A walk in the world, all that gravity, with breath and heartbeat in your ears;

Fire, for all that can be written;

Moonlight – the more full the more nourishing;

Stories, ideally of coincidence and heartache and the sweetest tiny moments;

Time, more time and then more time… enough time to remember every moment you had with that one now taken from you, and to forget to think of it every moment;

And just a glimpse of tomorrow, either in the face of an innocent or the realization of a dream.

This is a nonlinear spell. Cast it inside your heart, cast it between yourself and any devil. Cast it into the parts of you still living.

Remember you are water. Of course you leave salt trails. Of course you are crying.

Flow.

P.S. If there happens to be a multitude of griefs upon you, individual and collective, or fast and slow, or small and large, add equal parts of these considerations:
– that the broken heart can cover more territory.
– that perhaps love can only be as large as grief demands.
– that grief is the growing up of the heart that bursts boundaries like an old skin or a finished life.
– that grief is gratitude.
– that water seeks scale, that even your tears seek the recognition of community.
– that the heart is a front line and the fight is to feel in a world of distraction.
– that death might be the only freedom.
– that your grief is a worthwhile use of your time.
– that your body will feel only as much as it is able to.
– that the ones you grieve may be grieving you.
– that the sacred comes from the limitations.
– that you are excellent at loving.

You taught me that last one.

143 Your Ashley

XXII

Hi, Mom,

It’s hard to believe that you have been absent for all these moments. And yet, look at all this love… you are so clearly a part of that.

143 Your Ashley

XXI

Hi, Mom,

I’m currently holed up in bed with a bum knee. Your grandson ran full tilt down a bowling lane this weekend, and in my effort to stop him from dive bombing into a row of bowling pins, I fell, hard, on my left knee. I had no idea that bowling lanes were so damn slick. Sanderling and I managed to make a rather low risk sport dangerous. And fuck. My knee is in rough shape.

Of course, as with all things in life, when it rains, it pours, so Sander has a fever of 102 and is a snotty, drooly, coughy, disgusting beast. Since I can only move very slowly and deliberately to avoid further injury slash pain, James had to stay home from work with both of us to manage the energy of the toddler, and the demands of his relatively immobile spouse. The joys!

Fortunately, we’re coming down from a glorious long weekend with Steve and Justin and Adam, and their love and generosity and brilliance and good cooking has provided the positive vibes I need to get through this unfortunate hurdle.

On Sunday night, as I lay propped up on your 40th birthday present, that ridiculous Victorian sofa, and the guys cooked and entertained the kids and provided an endless stream of champagne and ice packs, I sat talking about you and what it felt like to lose a mother at this particular stage in my life when I am in the heart of parenting young children. It’s something I think about regularly, and the difficulty of not having you a phone call away on days like today are notably painful.

But I found that as I talked, I reflected on Courtland’s friend whose mother died this summer. Tears welled in my eyes with a mix of sadness and gratitude. How lucky am I to have had you in my life as a child. To have been created and loved and raised by you. I’m still pissed AF that you are gone, but I had you, for 32 years, and that is a part of me forever. And for that, I know deep wells of love and longing and gratitude.

But damn I wish I could call you and bitch about this stupid knee. You were always there in solidarity with a brilliant combination of sympathy and wit.

I miss you, Mama.
143 Your Ashley