We have moved a lot. Wait. That’s not the right place to start. I don’t know the right place to start, really. What’s the right way to write about something you spend so much time not talking about?
I have these hatboxes. No. They’re part of it, but not the beginning.
Yesterday was my little brother’s 27th birthday. Yes, it was. That’s just not all it was. I should explain. I should also tell you that I’ve been trying to write this blog post for 16 days now, so when I say “yesterday” I don’t really mean “yesterday.” AND, in some bizarro glitch just now, I accidentally deleted everything that finally poured out of me tonight to finish this post. So now it’s going to be in parts, because I don’t know if I can recreate all of it again. Also, I’m very disheartened, because I was sort of proud of it. And now it’s gone. But here’s the beginning. Or what I think is the beginning, anyway.
The only coffee we have left is this yummy “Saturday Blend” but I suspect that “Saturday Blend” is code for “ha, ha, we only put 1/2 the caffeine in here since you don’t have to do anything today but sit on your porch in a rocking chair like the people in the picture on the label, right?” I could probably check the label to see if I’m right about the lower caffeine content, but I’m predisposed to cynicism, so even if it said “super-extra-caffeine blend” I wouldn’t believe it.
Besides, I’m also predisposed to assume that it’s code. We’re big on code around here. “Mama, I’m full” is code for “I’m not going to eat that broccoli, thanks, but I’m ready for a cupcake.” “Have you talked to Dad lately?” is code for “I’VE talked to Dad lately and he has something he needs to tell you, so you need to call Dad. Also, I’m a better daughter than you are, because I already knew this.” I hate code. I think life would be so much easier if people would just say what they wanted/thought/needed/believed. I’d rather be direct, myself. But directness can be very offputting, and I hate that look people get when you’ve mangled their social expectations and they’re looking at you with a mixture of “Were you raised by wolves?” and “Crap, how do I get away from you?” and so I’ve learned to temper it, and speak in code like everyone else.
Now, I’m undercaffeinated (that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it), and stuck in my head, and Goat #2’s preschool is closed this week for spring break so we were home all day and stuck inside thanks to the drear and chill and drizzle, and I tried and tried to muster up some excitement to call my little brother and wish him a happy birthday but “little brother’s birthday” is also code. It’s what I say because after nine years I still can’t say “my mother died on this day.” The people who know this don’t really want to hear this anymore anyway, and the people who don’t know this hear the wistfulness in my voice and think “little brother’s birthday” is code for “oh NOES if my little brother is getting older, how much older does that make ME?” I don’t disabuse them of this notion; it’s just easier.
Really, there is no appropriate time/place/way to say this to people you haven’t seen in a while or have only just met, even if, say, it has just happened. Certainly not, say, in the line at the grocery store when you turn around and see your ex-boyfriend’s father for the first time in 10 years, and the only thing you can think is “I can’t have him thinking I normally leave the house looking like this. I MUST explain!” Of course, I didn’t manage to say “Please excuse my appearance, my mother just passed away.” Oh, NO. I turned around, saw a man I hadn’t seen since I was 21 years old, saw the look of recognition in his eyes, heard him say “Oh, hi, Mindee, how are you” (just as if I didn’t look like hell; he was clearly not raised by wolves) and what did the poor man get for his social niceties? Did I say “Hello, I’m just fine, how are you?” Oh, no. Did I even say “Hello”? Pretty sure I skipped even that and went straight for “My mom died.”
There’s really no way to say it, especially considering how much I hate to say it. The other day, I had an old friend with whom I’ve reconnected on Facebook ask me how my Mom is. And I spent forfreakingever trying to figure out how to answer him without having it turn into him saying sorry, and me saying no, it’s fine, because really? The thing I hate more than saying my Mom died? Is saying it’s fine. It could not be less fine, thanks. And I know my siblings think I should be more over it than I am. And my friends who know think I should be more over it than I am. And my family pretty much fell apart when it happened, so I try not to annoy my siblings any more than I usually do. And I’ve had some of my friends a long time, and I’d like to keep them, too. So I use the code and I try not to wallow. No one likes a wallower.
Everybody cuts me some slack on the wallowing in April, though. I get it, sort of. But not really. April isn’t even when I miss her most. I don’t know if I could really say when I miss her most. I miss her every damn day. I miss her on my birthday. I miss her on her birthday. I miss her when I’m standing in my kitchen at Thanksgiving with my hand up a turkey’s rear end, pulling out ungodly and inedible things that I have no idea what to do with, and replacing them with old-fashioned bread stuffing (screw salmonella warnings – my mom always cooked it that way and I’ve never gotten sick and I love it [the stuffing, not the not getting sick. Although I like that, too.]) that I never get quite right because I don’t have Mom’s recipe.
She played the piano, and now, all it takes is a snippet of one of her favorites, like “Fur Elise,” for me to cry. She had an inexplicable love for the soundtrack to “The Bodyguard” and I used to think I would go insane, she played it so much. Now, if the radio ambushes me with Whitney belting out “I Will Always Love You,” I have to pull the car over and be a whole different kind of insane until it’s over. I miss shopping with her. I miss watching her be Nana to my nieces and nephews. I miss what I know it would have been like, but will never be, for her to be Nana to MY kids.
That’s the thing, really. The kids. I’m way past whelmed with them most of the time, and I would give anything to have her here to talk to, or just share their funny moments with. The goats don’t have any idea who Nana is, other than “she’s in the Mommy-Daddy movie!” (What. It’s our wedding video.) I used to hate that video: cheesy 80s-style graphics, and the mushroom of tulle on my head that I deferred to my big sister about [oy]. Now, though, I’m glad I have it. The toast that my mother filmed is the closest I’ll ever get to having her talk to me again. Even if she does wrap it up by saying “Because life’s just too short.” (I don’t watch it unless I can crawl back into bed for the rest of the day.)
My mom died before we had the kids. They don’t know what they’re missing, but I do. Every time Goat #1 aces a test, or Goat #2 invents a new dance move, or one of them says something funny, or drives me up the wall, I have to try not to think of how I will tell her about it. Mostly it ends up here, and I thank you all for helping this be a safe space for me to do that.
But I still don’t quite know how to say what I want to say about this. Bear with me while I try to figure that part out, mmkay?
To be continued…
*Special thanks to W. E. Aytoun for inspiring today’s post title. I’d like to leave it at that and have something subtle in this post, that maybe piques your curiosity and sends you off to Google to see what I mean, but really, if you’re still with me at this point, you deserve some sort of reward, so I’ll stop with the comma splices now, and just give you the stanzas:
The deep, unutterable woe / Which none save exiles feel
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