Today’s the 33rd anniversary of my mum’s death. I have now lived longer than she did, and boy does it seem weird.
When you are a kid, the age of 40 seems so… old. Impossible that people can still do the things they want to do. Forty seems blandly middle aged. My mum was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at age 39, and it is a miracle she lived to 40. I don’t remember much of her illness because childhood trauma has a way of blocking out details. Hell, I don’t remember much of her life, to be honest. I remember her being ill, being in the hospital, and not seeing her again. For the last 33 years, I have been remembering not so much the woman she was, but aching in the void her illness and death created.
It is hard.
Here I sit, at age 42, having outlived the woman who gave me life, and I have a smattering of recollections of her. She was a somewhat emotionally reserved person, much like my own daughter. She had a shy smile, brown hair, gray eyes, and I distinctly remember that my sister had a pair of her shoes. They were light brown with a low heel. My mum was size 7 ½. I would try them on often during the Early Death Years. Then, one day my feet grew larger than hers were. Nothing fit anymore.
Things I inherited from my mother:
- Love of reading
- Unquenchable curiosity
- A thistle necklace, relic of her pre-parent life
Life is hard, you know? I raise my own children while trying not to fall into the voids left by those who died. I think we all do this. My brother’s void. My daughter’s void. My mother’s void, all ever-flowing rivers of grief. They scour raw ravines. Most days I take successful leaps across the ravines, though I often stumble and trip, ending with wet feet or worse, get carried away with the current of despair. That pesky depression gift I received from 50% of my DNA can be a beautiful liar sometimes.
Was my mum blandly 40? Probably. Maybe The Cancer gave her a false exceptionalism. Maybe it still does. I am solidly middle aged, and glad to have made it thus far. Aged forty two!
Each year she is gone, her void ravine becomes a narrower but deeper gorge.
It is 33 million years deep today.