a bittersweet mother’s day

so last year i had 3 mother figures, and this year i have only 1 living. i spent a lot of time with my aunt and grama growing up. my mom was 3 days shy of her 21st birthday when she had me, with her husband on the other side of the world. luckily she had support. a good portion of my childhood memories are against the backdrop of grama and grampas house and their big backyard, or over at barb and rick’s. these are happy memories.

i came across this photo last night.

any and every celebration!

any and every celebration!

even though it’s fuzzy, everything in that picture makes me nostaligic. everything about it is so typical of a family celebration. that bucket of ice cream with the ancient ice cream scooper, a round cake, the glasses, the decor in grama’s house, that set of drawers full of who knows what, but in the middle and 3 drawers up – that one was mine and i could always find some little trinket grama had saved for me in there. my mom is on the right, barb on the left. even the way they are sitting and looking at each other looks so perfect and typical to me.

i miss them so much. grief has been back to bite me in the butt more frequently lately. i don’t know if it was the anticipation of mother’s day or the fact that grama’s birthday is coming up next week or that we’ve just passed 6 and 7 months on the deaths. i know it was a year ago now that we got barb’s diagnosis. i feel that, too, in the springtime. it’s beautiful out, everything is waking up, but i can still feel the shock in the air of a death sentence. last year i was busy busy busy. school was coming to an end and i had to go back and forth to the hospital and finish homework and get to class and get to work. a year ago today i went to a wedding. it was kind of horrible. i just found out barb was going to die and i was watching another couple starting their lives. it didn’t make any sense. i remember watching them, and watching my friend dance with his grandmother and just thinking, “shit. you don’t know what’s gonna happen. all this joy and happiness and in 30 years you could both be dead.” it also reinforced that when i get married my aunt and grama won’t be there. it was a sad time.

on mother’s day, usually we would all somehow spend it together. we’d pick grama up and go out to eat with the whole family. i remember once a couple of years ago, my cousins were either out of town or working or something, so barb and grama just came over to my mom’s house and we had dinner there. it was nice. i remember writing out 3 mother’s day cards and telling them all how much they meant to me and that each of them were like a mother to me. and they were. mother figures. i clung to that, especially around the times that barb and grama died, to make a point on how meaningful they were to me. however, they were not my mothers.

with barb, i realized that in the last week of her life. andi had just come back home to be here for the end and they were having a discussion that got a little heated. in trying to counsel and be a peacemaker, i realized that this is mother-daughter stuff. i was lucky to have a close, loving, adoring relationship with barb, but without that tension that comes from the nature of being mother-daughter. and that’s what’s special about being aunt and neice. she was a wonderful aunt! we had a good time. i needed her in my life because she was like me, my counterpart. in the sibling sets in our family, there always seems to be the smart, achiever, perfectionist older one, and the charismatic, personable, lovable, cute, younger one. barb and i understood each other, i needed her influence, her encouragement, and her companionship. i can’t imagine my life without her.

with grama, sure she performed some motherly duties when i was a kid, but i got to be spoiled rotten by her, coddled, loved, adored. i was the only grandchild for such a long time, and i got to be the favorite. and then i got to know her. i was patient with grama, tried not to be frustrated with her, and got to spend lots of one on one time with her. you know, i never talked much around my grama, but i just loved being near her, looking at her face, listening to her. it’s really the epitome of a grandmother/granddaughter relationship. she was not my mom, and that’s great because she was a really good grama. we loved each other so much!

and in these realizations, i come to appreciate my own mother more and more. in these realizations, i can give her a break. i had villanized her for many years, focusing only on the negative, the controlling, the ugly. but she has a lot of great qualities. she’s fun, she has a great sense of humor, she’s real, she’s honest, she loves me so much, she has always tried to do everything she could to make a good life for us. after the deaths, i’ve just come to this great appreciation for her, just for who she is. when i stop expecting her to be someone she’s not, stop comparing her with others, acknowledge there will always be a little something extra in the strain department because of the nature of being mother and daughter… she’s pretty great. i had to grow up and she had to grow up, but i’m glad we’re where we are today. i love her very much.

so today, i’m thankful for all the women in my family who have made an impact on me in their uniqueness, their roles, and our relationships.

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20/20 (in vignettes)

-one-

since about last weekend i’d say, i was throwing my feelers out into my social circle for someone to talk to about justin timberlake’s new album. i gave it a once through on spotify while i was doing something else and i really liked it! i have both his other albums but after watching him on snl a few weeks ago i thought he was going entirely big band and wasn’t really interested. but this i liked. i’ve listened to it a few times since and have narrowed down that i really like the orchestration on a lot of his stuff, and my usual problems come with his lyrics. but i love the sound!

-two-

yesterday afternoon i met one of my oldest friends, R, for tea. we always talk about something that reminds us that we are uncannily on parallel paths somehow, even if it’s not in current life circumstance. i was confessing how instead of accepting the party invitation from my 24 year old man-child coworker friend, my friday night consisted of falling asleep hard at 8pm. but how i felt kinda fine about it because i didn’t wanna end up at a 20something party feeling uncomfortable. it’s not that i don’t wanna be social. i just don’t start my night at 10pm anymore. plus, we agreed that at our age, it’s just much more deeply satisfying these days to crawl into bed with my laptop and watch episode after episode of arrested development after a long workweek.

we discussed options for getting more social as i’m coming to the hard realization that i’m probably not going to find my future husband and father of my children while watching netflix in bed. however, don’t get me wrong, i only intend to go out long enough to find someone who would like to come back with me to enjoy my netflix nest home base. (it’s really good.) so anyway, we’re brainstorming age appropriate, afternoon and early evening only options for a couple of aging former hot stuff party girls. i soberly asked her if our days of dancing were over. we used to love to go dance! but now we’re too old and it’s too late. in the dinner party of life, R decided that dancing has become a seasonal side dish – not completely off the menu, but acknowledging that we havent’ done it since summer 2011. then she asked me, sad but hopeful, “do you at least dance around your living room at home?” yes, of course! that never stopped. “then you’re ok.”

R tells me that she and her husband have also been enjoying justin’s new album, but that he hogs it, having downloaded it to his phone. he dances through the room she’s in, as if taunting her.

-three-

i stopped by my mom’s house yesterday and she was playing justin’s new album. i was kind of suprised, but not that surprised. also in the living room was Wayne. he was my mom’s boyfriend when i was 5-8 or so, and he was a monster. they were young, he was an addict, and he yelled a lot. when i was about 8 he od’d and went into a coma. somehow he made it through and mellowed out quite a bit, but he still made me uneasy. they have stayed in touch over the years and are still friends.

we were chatting in the living room while my mom was burning cds for him in the other room. with the album playing in the background, Wayne decides to make some kind of superficial ammends with me. i’ve never really talked to him about what a traumatic presence he was in my young life. to hear him try to apologize for being such an ass was strange. part of me wanted to continue to shut him out and keep him at arm’s length out of habit. but part of me decided to be a grown up. so i told him that i was young, i didn’t understand what was going on, was scared that their relationship was abusive, i didn’t understand that he was on drugs… to me, he was just scary. he acknowledged that he was a mess, and barked loud back then, but that he wasn’t an abusive man, not physically. my mom came in on the last part of this conversation and confirmed that. they began to reminisce about old times, as my mom drank a little brandy and got loose with her couch dancing.

my mom is kind of magnificent sometimes.

it’s not like i’ve never seen her dance moves. when i was a kid she would get drunk and have dance parties and annoy the shit out of me. she has always bragged about how she can dance for a white girl. i gotta give it to her, she was workin it out. i kind of freeze up when she’s partying and being awesome, i won’t dance in front of her even though it’s just about my favorite thing to do sometimes. i laugh really hard when she does a particularly bad-ass move, and i know she’s misunderstanding me. and i can’t explain it to her at the time, but i’m laughing because it’s so good and because i’m realizing that i must’ve learned a thing or two from her. not in particular moves but in style and interpretation. it’s a trip!

-four-

at one point during the listening party, my mom explains to Wayne and i, “this album reminds me of the old days, the sound of it. it reminds me of dancing with barb, and riding around. it reminds me of when i was young.” she’s looking at me and explaining, “but the old days are gone, i will never be young like that again, and i can never get that back.” she said it so matter of fact. i was a little bit dumbfounded and mesmerized, i didn’t know what to say. i often don’t know what to say around my mom, i can’t express myself in the moment, it comes later. but i just stared back at her until she asked me what i was thinking. “do you think i’m calling you old, is this depressing?” and it wasn’t, but it was definitely ironic after R and i were brainstorming on how to transition gracefully into this next stage of life. my mom, she just says these things sometimes. i don’t know, i still don’t know why that moment froze in time for me. it was just really fascinating to see my mom wax philosophical on this new record that sounds like an old record and reminds her of a time that’s gone forever… so let’s dance.

who knew that i was waiting to talk to my mom about the new justin record?