My mom was out celebrating my birthday on the day that ended up being her last.
My birthday is this Saturday. The anniversary of us losing her is 9 days after that. I can’t believe it’ll be a year. It doesn’t feel like a year. At most, it feels like a couple months ago, that’s all. I don’t even like telling people how long it’s been because, unless they went through it themselves, they don’t understand how much you still hurt. But you do.
Now my birthday is about me messing up my life — and her being gone because of that day. There’s nothing to celebrate. I don’t need the cliches: “It’s better than the alternative.” Not being in a coffin is not a celebration, it’s survival. It’s not like I survived Katrina or one of the wars; it’s just the best thing anyone can come up with.
I would give so much to be able to talk to Mom again.
I’m lousy about my birthdays — about getting older, you know that. So were you. Probably for the same reasons as me: I hate how I’ve screwed up my life, and I hate that with each year, I’m running out of time. I hate the look of people of “You’re HOW old?” and cracks about age and all of it. I’ve messed up so much….
And now, you were out that day because of me. Even the doctors in the ER said you had the attack because you were out in the heat that day, instead of home, relaxing in the air conditioning.
You would say, “Don’t feel that way.” But if our positions were switched, you’d never forgive yourself that you had ME out. People tell me I might have regretted not being with you or you might have had a terrible last day instead… but that’s what ifs. It doesn’t change the facts. The facts are, you were out for my birthday, that was your last day. And everyone would feel like garbage if it was them. I don’t know that I blame myself, so much as the one thing is now tied forever to the other, and so it’s always a reminder.
It makes a lot of things come back: that whole horrible night, you being gone… I still can’t say “My mom di–“, I say, “I lost my mom”. I still can’t any home movies that you’re in. Pictures are bad enough.
And that’s not all. I should have been a better daughter. Look at my birthday last year: I got caught up in what I was doing, and forgot you were having cataract surgery. You had to call me the next day to tell me how it went instead of me calling right away to see if you were okay. Even then, my mind wondered as you talked about it, too busy thinking of things I had to do.
I did that too much.
It’s why we will never have that trip to your hometown that I asked you and DeeDee to do, because I got caught up in my things and forgot the date we had set. Then I moved it to September…. you didn’t have a September.
It’s why we will never do the scrapbook of Daddy’s war years; we planned it for years, but I never sat down and did it with you. I made a joke about it…. now all the things you bought me to put in the book sit in a bag that I can’t bear to look at.
I was selfish to the end. Sitting in the backseat of Cathi’s car that day, you guys dropping me off at my car, people waiting for my parking spot and for us to move, so when the bags were in the way and I couldn’t kiss you goodbye, I just called it instead and took off. You called my name…. wanting me to call back, but I jumped in my car.
I hear you calling me in that moment in my head, and it hurts.
So damned selfish; why couldn’t I stop for one minute, just one? Why couldn’t I think of you and not me?
I’m sorry…. really sorry….
But that doesn’t change any of it.