Monday, January 11, 2016

Mournful Reminiscences

Today I am 36 years and 13 days old. My birthday was back in December, like it is every year. Four days after Christmas. Two days before the turn of the New Year. The day of my birth has always seemed to be lacking in celebration, overshadowed by these other holidays. It's the sole reason why I try to make my girls' birthdays something memorable and special, and probably why I don't like Christmas too terribly much. I didn't much at all until my girls were born.

We celebrate my birthday quietly. I don't like parties, personally. Either I've grown accustomed to the quiet of "oh by the way happy birthday" or I actually do like it this way. It was a normal day like any other. The weekend before, my husband took me to see the new Star Wars film. I'm not as big a nerd for that franchise as I am for some others, but it's nice to know that they have planned another series of films for me to look forward to seeing for my birthday for the next several years.

On our way home from the movie, my husband and I stopped at Dairy Queen for dinner. There's one right up the street from us and it's hard not to eat their every day, never mind not being able to afford to. While waiting for our food to be finished to take home, I saw an oreo cookie crunch ice cream cake in the freezer and had an unreasonable craving. I pointed it out and said, "I want that for my birthday." My husband brought it home to me on his way from work that night several days later.

Half of it is still in my freezer. Please come eat it.
This year is probably going to be the hardest for me. I'm reminded of a concept I read about in the book Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman. Something to do with how women who have suffered the loss of their mothers trudge through the age in which they died, feeling a heavy shadow of fear and oppression, until that year passes and they can say, "I survived."

It feels utterly ridiculous for me to think that way. My mother wasn't terminally ill with some life-threatening disease that claimed her. I'm lead to believe she suffered mental illness, though. Some very strong depression in which she was on medication to try to combat. Her death certificate reads that single, pit-dropping-into-stomach word of suicide. Since discovering that "truth" in my teenage years, I have long since told myself that no matter how hard things got for me I would never be like her.

It's a conviction I've held onto strongly. I can say with satisfying honesty that there was only one point in my life in which I felt so downtrodden. And that was years and years ago, a lifetime before where I find myself now. I never attempted it. Only having the thought was enough, and I never had one like it again.

So it seems silly of me to think that I just have to make it through this year to have beat my mother's record, as it were. I can't say it's going to be hard. I like myself and my life too much. I love my husband and my children. I'm content. Though as a mother I definitely feel my daily stresses, I don't feel at all compelled to even remotely entertain the idea of ending it all. I want to see tomorrow, and all the days after it. I want to see my children grow. I want to see the adults they will become, and meet any possible grandchildren they might have of their own.

And yet... That heavy black cloud of mourning hangs heavily over me, making me think, "I only have to get through this year, and I will have surpassed her." She was 36 years and 256 days old the day she died. Her birthday was in September. She died in May. This year she will have been gone from my life for 28 years, and not a day goes by in which I do not miss her.

My father's birthday was two days ago. He would have been 72 years old. It was a cruel twist of fate that had him dying ten years, nearly precisely to the day, after my mother, his first wife. I imagine when I am 54 years old I will feel even more weighted down and terrified of the age. For that was how old he was at the time of his death, when his last and final heart attack claimed him. A family history of heart disease is more terrifying than one of suicide to bear, I think. Not to mention the breast cancer and bone cancer possibilities from my grandmothers on either side.

The one comfort I can find is in knowing, as my brother said, that my parents would be proud of the woman I have become today, of the choices I made to get where I am now. I know they would adore their grandchildren, though it saddens me beyond comprehension when I remember that they never met them. My children will never known their maternal grandparents but through pictures and the spotty memories I have of them.

I miss you terribly, Mom & Dad.
This is, I know, not the most uplifting way to start the year, but they are thoughts I felt compelled to get off my chest, to share. It has not been easy, raising my two baby girls without any parental support on my side whatsoever. I envy all my friends and neighbors who still have at least one living parent to support them, if not both. And I'm grateful for my brother, who helped me as I helped him, during the first few months of my Usurper's life.

Speaking of my Usurper... In just 23 days we will be celebrating the day of her birth, quietly. She turns three in February. Of course I have a big party planned for the weekend after her actual day of birth, but on her day we're going to go do something special as a family. I won't ruin the surprise by talking about it now. Hopefully I won't neglect to write about it later.

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