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Category: Letters to Momar

III

Hi, Mom.

Sunny has finally agreed, however begrudgingly, to wearing a swim cap during swim practice. Success! Finally! I know that you and I both pushed her on this last year during swim season – and she finally acquiesced now that she’s swimming on the team.

I have a much better understanding of how you must have felt during the peak of my competitive swimming years. Consumed and forever frustrated with the state of my chlorine-saturated hair. Sunny, like me, has unbelievably porous hair, so it turns that awful shade of green and gets all coarse and tinsley thanks to so much chlorine exposure. No amount of pre-swim rinse and conditioner followed by post-swim, anti-chlorine shampoo treatments has made much of a dent. When Sunny protests about the cumbersome, lengthy process to prep for swim practice, I’m reminded of my own annoyances with you when you’d insist that I step in a cold, fresh water shower before diving into the pool. It all comes full circle.

I caught a glimpse of her from across the pool at practice last week, standing in her racing suit, goggles on over her new blue cap, tall and lean, long-legged and lanky, and I reflected that you must have beheld a very comparable sight with me.  She shares my love of the life aquatic, and is such a strong, confident swimmer for her age. It’s clear that she is one of the strongest and fastest in her group. Her strokes are coming together beautifully, and holy shit, the girl can already nail an unbelievable racing dive. The team was practicing starts the other night, and when Sunny came off the block, both her coach and myself audibly gasped. Neither of us were expecting her to get such distance (and her coach actually thought she might land on the kid in front of her!). I wish you were around so I could brag about this to you, because who else but with my child’s grandmother can I be so over-the-top proud of a seven year old’s swim habits and not sound utterly ridiculous? I love watching her grow in this way, and, more importantly, I love seeing how much she has taken to this sport, how much she loves the water, the discipline, the practice. How happy it makes her to be in the pool. You and dad always called me your fish, and apparently it’s genetic.

143 Your Ashley

II

Hi, Mom.

Tonight, Courtland wailed for you. She wanted her Momar’s squishy hugs, and James and I were not sufficient. You were always her biggest champion, and even at the age of four, she could sense that. I hate knowing how much richer her life could be were you still with us.

While Courtland sobbed, Sunny mournfully whispered, “I wish Momar had taken care of herself as well as she took care of all of us.”

And in my angriest moments of grief, those very thoughts creep into my head. Why didn’t you love yourself as much as we all loved you? Why didn’t you care for your own health (physical, mental, emotional) in all the ways you supported and encouraged us to do? Why didn’t you want to take care of yourself enough to be around for all of us that need you so much?

I realize that even with the most vigilant self-care your body could have given out, suddenly, unexpectedly, in the way that it did. But I hate that I wonder. I hate that I resent that wonder, that possibility that this didn’t have to be. Had you just exercised more. Spent time with a therapist. Eaten less sweets and more leafy greens. Taken care of you, in mind, body, spirit.

It does me no good, but memories of standing in an ER in Albany, clutching your ashen hand, shaking with adrenaline and fear, pleading with you, race through my nightmares.

I need you to take care of yourself. I need you. I can’t have this happen again. We all need you.

That moment, less than three years before your death. That moment when death came so near, but I stopped it. I thought that would be the moment when you’d finally focus on you. Your health. Your happiness. And yet, I couldn’t stop death. I never could, I just never expected it to haunt us so soon after its first approach.

As a friend said in the aftermath of your death, “This wasn’t inevitable, but it wasn’t unforeseeable.” And that very fact shakes my core. Even your seven year old grandchild can sense it.

I’m angry that I couldn’t stop death. I’m angry that I have to exist in a world without you. Forever a world without you. And that these children of mine will never fully understand what a vibrant, rich world it was to have you in it. What it meant to be loved by their Momar.

I miss you so damn much.
143 Your Ashley

kidsin-vt-1

I

Hi, Mom.

Your grandson is seven months old as of last Friday, and he is all sweetness. I wish you could see how much I absolutely adore this boy of mine. He is such light. Such joy. You’d be so enchanted with him. I can picture you crooning, “Oh you beguiling little thing,” as he’d gaze at you with those big blue eyes, downy chick blonde hair and opened mouthed grin.

Just yesterday, he learned to clap. He is one of the happiest, smiliest babes I’ve ever encountered, and his face positively exploded with joy when he figured out how to repeatedly slap palm to palm as his sisters sang round after round of “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!”

Boy did he know it!

He’s going through some serious sleep regression thanks to runny noses, and coughs, and teething, and a deep interest in being vertical. I know you’d stress and worry that he is showing absolutely zero interest in crawling. Tummy time elicits screams of protest from an otherwise carefree babe, whereas he will stand for what feels like hours with utter pride and delight on his feet. Stick a mirror in front of him, and he could entertain himself all day. The bouncer is a huge hit as a result. His daycare teachers say that he is giving their arms quite a workout, as he so prefers to be held standing upright than down on his tummy. I’m not too concerned about the lack of crawling, but I can picture you worrying this fact over and over with me on the phone. “It’s important they crawl first! It’s a critical developmental milestone!”

As I navigate life on only two-three hour blocks of sleep before interruption, I wish I could call you to commiserate. You were always so good about letting me bitch and moan and whine, and pepping me up to take on another day. I’ll never forget sitting in a pool of tears in my bathroom in LA, while Addison screamed in my arms, with you, on the other end of the line, gently reminding me, “It feels like forever, sweetie. But it’s not. This will only last a short while. You can do it. You’re a wonderful mother.”

When I find myself at my wits end at three o’clock in the morning with a fussy baby in my arms, I call those words to mind, the gentleness and wisdom of your voice, and it helps me find calm.

“This will only last a short while.”

How painfully true.

You would be so taken with this boy. And while writing to you will never be sufficient, I’ve realized it brings to mind what is most pressing, most true, most salient because what comes flooding out of me is what I so wish I could share with you. Moments like the splendor of learning to clap.

You’d have been so proud of him, too.

143 Your Ashley

sanderling7months-1