I haven’t written about this at all, and I’m not sure this is going to make it out of draft status (though if you’re reading it, it obviously has). But, as I said to my sister, blogging is cheaper than therapy. So I’ll give it a shot.
My mom is really forgetting things now. I don’t mean forgetting why she came into a room (heck, I do that daily) or the maiden name of her nephew’s wife or where she put her glasses. I mean major life events.
A couple of years before Levi came to us, we had another baby boy in our home for sixty days. We thought he was ours, but it didn’t happen that way in the end. The story of what, and how, and why is long and complicated and not the point right now. But it was a big deal. Surrendering that baby boy – already so much my son, no matter what the legalities were – was easily the worst thing I have ever had to do in my life. It’s not overstatement to say that that experience and the aftermath have shaped my life and my character in significant ways. Maybe even in ways I don’t completely understand yet, seven years later.
Now. Imagine that I am your daughter, and that you had a front row seat. That I stayed at your house after it happened because I couldn’t bear to go home. That I sobbed and wailed and beat my fists on your table, and your bed, and your floor, and asked you if I would ever be happy again. I think it’s the kind of thing that wouldn’t be easy to forget.
And yet there we all were yesterday. That boy and his family came for a visit and for supper, which they do at least once a year. My mom came too, and my sister. We talked for hours. They all signed Levi’s cast.
And when they went home, Mom said, “Now … how did you first meet these people again?” I gave her a gentle outline, and she came back, horrified, with, “I am SURE I never heard that before.”
It’s not the first sign we’ve seen, but it’s the one I’m finding hardest so far. It seems so … I don’t know. So LARGE. And, as much as I’m going to sound like a drama queen, so much of a watershed, everything-was-different-after moment. Perhaps that’s just because it was my moment. I don’t know.
Either way, it’s more clear to me all the time. We are saying our Long Goodbye. And it’s hard.
I don’t know how to do this part. I know how to listen to the same story over and over (and over). I know things to try when something is upsetting and some calming words are what’s needed. I am getting better at steering around certain topics to avoid the upsetting things in the first place, and at guessing what topics those might be before learning the hard way. And anything that needs to be organized – this week it’s trash pickup – I’m all over it.
But this part. Man. I know that it’s grief, and I even kind of know how to do grief. Except not this way, this gradual loss of experience and history and personhood. I was talking about a good friend of mine recently, and I said that when we met, we had little in common. And that’s still mostly true, except that now we have twenty years of laughter and memories and shared experiences. History. If we didn’t have that history, we would be different together.
So what does it mean when the person who has known you the longest, who told you the stories of your babyhood so often that you believe that you remember them yourself, who is the very source and origin of your history … doesn’t remember?
I don’t know how to do this part. This is hard.