Blog a la Cart

Category: Loss

XIII

Hi, Mom,

I don’t even know where to begin. I have felt at a loss for words since the election. This whole year is like one gigantic steaming pile of horse poo. You would be horrified by the state of the world. Of this country. Reading the news kicks my anxiety in to high gear. What ugly times I fear we are living in, made all the more hideous by your absence. The holidays have been wearing away at me. I miss you so fucking much and am so angry that you are not here.

Despite the fear and ugliness and hate I see swirling in my newsfeed, there is still beauty and hope and love and joy. And above all, I hate that you are missing that.

You missed a beautiful, tasty, festive Thanksgiving with the Fricke family. Our first Pie Breakfast in our new home. The girls yearly Nutcracker performance. The decorating of our home in Christmas cheer. You weren’t there when I needed to whine and complain about a stomach flu that took out all five Cart family members. As I’ve been making and assembling and ordering and planning gifts for all my loved ones, you aren’t on my list. As I addressed and mailed our holiday card, I had to delete your name from Dad’s address. And I have to do this, every year, for the rest of my life.

Everything hurts when I let myself absorb that reality.

But because you are the one who instilled in me the joy and tradition of holiday card sharing, I wanted to share this year’s greeting in this space, to add to our growing collection. As always, I turned to Minted, and found a fitting French greeting as a nod to you, the ultimate Francophile. James and I took the kids back up to the farm to snap photos among the fall foliage, and I spent hours reworking a message of both devastation and celebration, loss and love. I think you would have loved the result. And I framed all of our cards, which we started sending the year Courtland was born. They are now prominently displayed in our front hall. Another little touch of which I know you’d approve.

I miss you, Mom. Always, but during these darker days of December most poignantly.

143 Your Ashley

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XI

Hi, Mom.

People often tell me how much I remind them of you. At your Celebration so many people commented on it, not just how I look, but my voice, the way I speak, the way my hands are accompaniment to that expression. And of course there are “isms,” specific behaviors or tendencies which I emulate more and more as I tread deeper into adulthood/parenthood.

Like wearing my pajamas to the girls’ bus stop earlier this week. Hot dang, my transformation to Allison Motherhood is nearly complete thanks to that choice. But when the PJs are this cute… you taught me that trick. I’ve got an entire drawer full of Calida nightgowns to show for your commitment to luxurious, comfortable nightwear.

I haven’t ventured out in public in a nightgown (yet), but there’s time to get on your level.

143 Your Ashley

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X

Hi, Mom.

One of the more painful aspects of life in The After is existing among acquaintances, friends, even family members, who no longer ask about you, about how I’m doing in your absence, or dare to speak your name in my presence. So many people who claimed you among their dearest friends sent letters and condolences in the immediate aftermath, and yet it has been radio silence since.

It is so deeply painful to feel as though there are people in my life who expect me to be over it. Moved on. Why would I need to still talk about my dead mom? She’s been gone 8 months, surely my sadness and grief has had enough time to work itself out. Snap out of it, Ashley! Look on the bright side! Look at your beautiful children! Your mom wouldn’t want you to be sad.

And to that I say, Fuck. That. Noise. I witnessed how hard you grieved your own mother in the 15 years you lived without her, and there is absolutely no way you wouldn’t want me mourning and grieving your death. You would be so outraged that you were dead. I can’t stop thinking about how furious this whole situation would make you. Sure, anyone would be mad they were dead, but oh, your fury would be a special kind of rage and indignation.

The thing I wish people would realize is that I will never stop wanting to talk about you. I will always want to tell stories about you to my children. Or share memories of you with my friends. I will never want to pretend like you weren’t the most essential person in my life, and that I am forever altered and life is forever less by your death.

I miss you so so much, mom. Thank you for allowing authentic expression of feeling, in all its varied capacities. I recognize now more than ever how special it was to grow up in a home where I was permitted to share and emote honestly. I am a better support and cheerleader for those I love because of it.

143 Your Ashley

VII

Hi, Mom.

I really needed you today. It felt like no one was in my corner or had my back. I retreated to my bed room before the kids returned home from school and hid out under the covers. And I cried. Long and hard. For you. For myself. For your grandchildren.

I needed a cheerleader today. I needed someone checking in on me. I needed someone asking how I am doing with authenticity and time. I needed a long, rambling voicemail. I needed a voice on the other end of the line. I needed a mother.

During my hardest moments of grief, I need a mother’s love. And yet that is the very thing I am mourning.

143 Your Ashley

VI

Hi, Mom.

In my office sits a framed photograph of you and Dad bedecked in purple and yellow on the sidelines of a Williams football game. It’s the fall of 2006, and you’re seated in the grass, shoulder to shoulder, hugging my Ursa close, and smiling up at the camera proudly.

When I returned to work just a few weeks ago, nearly 8 months to the day since you died, that image smacked me in the face upon entering my office. It sat casually on my desk, in the very place it was left when I closed up my office on Friday, February 12th, fully expecting to return the following Monday, the home stretch to baby’s arrival. And yet, just two days later, our lives changed forever. And I had forgotten about that photograph in the fog of life in The After.

But there it was, with you and Ursa side by side. And I felt myself grow angry and crushed at its sight. Two out of the three beings in that image are dead. Gone. I will never see them again. Never hold them again. Never feel their love firsthand. Ever again. I was gutted by that reality.

It wasn’t so long ago that we sat together on that patch of grass on that brisk November day. And as I stared at that image today at work, I found myself trying to recall what it felt like to hold your hand. I tried to recall the safety and love I experienced when pressing my face against the side of your cheek in a hug. Or the way stroking Ursa’s silky, black ears always brought such relaxation and calm.

And I fucking hate that I don’t ever get to experience those things again. Ever again. It is so horribly, painfully unfair.

143 Your Ashley

V

Hi, Mom.

Montauk Daisies are in full bloom in The Berkshires. I never would have taken the time to notice the way that flowers mark the months with their ephemeral beauty were it not for you. After we purchased Cartwheel Farm, you quickly got to work filling our land with vibrant blooms, instructing us about care and upkeep, and the beauty to anticipate year after year. It wasn’t until I became a homeowner that I fully appreciated the labor of love (and sweat) it was to maintain your perennial flower gardens at 30 Margin. The time, the expense, the knowledge required. How fortunate we were as children to grow up surrounded by such natural splendor, and how fortunate as an adult to benefit from all that experience (though I feel cheated of so much, as you had so much more to give, particularly on that front).

The first flowers you had us plant at Cartwheelm Farm were Montauk Daisies.

They’re wonderful, Ashley! They bloom in October. Just when the days start to get darker and grayer, they are a happy, sunny sight as the season cools.

You stood watch, sipping a frosty beverage no doubt, orchestrating James and I as we dug holes and planted and watered and pruned. And year after year, how those bushes grew and thrived and gave us that happy boost each October.

I drove up to the farm with the kids last weekend as I was in need of a smile and some sunshine from my mama. We picked an abundant bouquet of Montauk Daisies and they have been a happy sight on our dining room table for over a week.

I will always see you in the flowers.

143 Your Ashley

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IV

Hi, Mom.

This week’s episode of “The Longest Shortest Time” shared the story of a woman mothering without a mother. And, fuck, I stood frozen in the kitchen listening with my mouth agape (so much for cooking dinner while casually listening to my favorite podcasts). Moment after moment of this woman’s story found me nodding ardently with resonance and affirmation.

I’m not my biggest cheerleader, and I’m getting emotional because I think there is something about a mother that is your cheerleader. When my mom died, I felt so acutely like my personal cheerleader on the sidelines of my life is gone.

This thought runs through my head almost daily. I am forever without the person who loved me and championed me best in this life. And man, that never won’t suck.

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

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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

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I don’t want to do this anymore.

That’s how I’ve felt about this space since my last post in early July.

I don’t want to do this anymore.

There has been so much. So much change. So much transition. So many moving parts these past six months that, recently, the thought of attempting to capture them here has felt daunting, not therapeutic. Overwhelming, instead of celebratory.

Since I last posted, we’ve found new homes for Penelope Pig and our flock of chickens, as part of a much larger picture to simplify our lives and conflicting demands of time and energy.

We’ve spent a full week of summer vacation on Cape Cod without my mother. It was filled with beach lounging, ocean swimming, bridge jumping, corn on the cob eating, movie watching, sand castle building, sand island playing, and sunset boat cruising. So much time in the water and sun. With family. And there was so much joy and memory making, and yet everything is diminished by her absence. Forever, diminished.

We packed up and sold Cartwheel Farm. A decision not easily made, but solidified when we found buyers in under 72 hours of listing. In the name of simplicity and convenience, we needed to let go of our dear farmette. We had to say goodbye to the place where I buried my sweet Ursa, where I last saw and held my mother, the last home in which she ever knew me living

We weathered a week of homelessness in sending the dogs and girls off to my in-laws, while James, Sanderling and I relied on the hospitality of friends, and mentally prepped for our move into our new home.

We moved into our little village, walking distance to school and work and daycare, and most significantly, loved ones, our support network. Upon filling our 1875 Colonial with all of our worldly possessions, James and the girls boarded a boat to Bermuda with their Bermudian great-grandmother and Sanderling and I flew over and met them island-side. A tropical, gorgeous, breathtaking break from our chaotic reality back home.

Sander became a teething, squawky five month old. Courtland turned into a Kindergarten-ready five year old. We marked six months of life without my mother’s.

And now, I sit here typing with breast pumps attached to my chest as I attempt to physically and mentally and emotionally prepare for Sander’s introduction to daycare tomorrow morning. The first of my children to be sent to full time daycare before age one, and a symbolic demarcation of all that has changed in such a short period of time. From the beginning, he has been my anchor, and the thought of being apart from him for an extended period makes my gut turn with nausea. I’m not sure how to weather a day without him by my side, providing perspective and comfort and presence. It is a necessary step in my grief as we prepare for my return to work in September, but for now, I feel raw and exposed and unsettled. I know that he will be fine, social butterfly that he is. It is me about whom I’m concerned.

Last night, I had my first visceral, ugly, hysterical outburst of grief in months. I screamed and sobbed and moaned, “I don’t want to do this any more. Please, I just don’t want to do this anymore.”

And by that I mean, I don’t want to exist in a world without my mother another day, another second. I want this grief to be over. I want this hurt to stop. I want this world without her to no longer be my reality.

The foreverness of it undoes me. Trying to make sense of forever, to wrap my head around that, is so physically devastating that my whole body aches and yearns and mourns. I need my mom. I just need my mom.

I don’t want to do this anymore.

I was called to return to this space thanks to a beautiful, loving email sent by a fellow member of the Dead Parent Club (one of the shittiest clubs to join). It was a reminder that these words can be helpful, not just for me, but for others who are navigating a similar devastating forever.

I may not want to do this anymore, but I can. And I will.