The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have to be honest that this day’s prompt almost stopped me from wanting to continue with this project. It was easy to rationalize that I didn’t have time to think about this because my mom was in town staying with me for the past week. Her visits to Chicago are always filled with wine tastings, the Art Institute, shopping, long daily walks by the lake, hysterical laughter, classical music in the park, movies, brunches, lunches, dinners, naps, job interviews, the french market, fireworks, champagne, Steve Martin and Martin Short at the Chicago Theater, a colonoscopy and the disgusting medicinal swamp water prep that goes along with it. And that’s not all, but you get the point. It’s easy to not think about what I’m afraid to do when I’m busy doing so much stuff.
She left today and the house is quiet now that the rain has ended except for the furious wind and the occasional object flying past my thirty-fifth story window. And everything in me doesn’t want to write about what’s too scary because I’m irrationally worried that if I write down what I’m afraid of then it might have the potential to become reality. These aren’t thoughts that would normally bother me in the daylight, but for some reason the night has a tendency to bring out all of my emotions. The other part of me knows by facing my fear, it has less power over me because I’ll be able to see it for what it is. But what if it’s about the fear of losing the people I love? Whenever my mom heads back to Cleveland after a visit, I have a moment just after she walks away when I feel so sad that I am overwhelmed with fear of losing her forever. In all honesty, she’s not going anywhere yet. She’s healthy, vital and full of energy. She even works on new bits to try and make my brother and me laugh. (Yes, she calls them bits.) Her latest? Asking us if we think the waiter looks like Adam Sandler. (I didn’t say they were good bits, but when she says it about every single waiter over the course of a week, it starts to get funny.) She’s not afraid to laugh at her own jokes or to be the punchline of anyone else’s joke for that matter. I admire that quality more than I have ever let her know. And frankly, I have no idea what in the world I would do without her. I know that life would go on, but it would be a much duller one without her in it.
When I was around ten years old, we were driving home from Uncle Bill’s when I told her that it would be easier if I died first. We were stopped at a traffic light on Rocky River Drive not far from the airport in her silver Oldsmobile with the black leather interior. I was afraid of what her reaction might be when I said it out loud, so I stared out the passenger window rather than looking at her. “Molly, how could you even think such a thing?” It was like I had knocked the wind out of her. My childish response was that I wouldn’t be able to stand it so it would be easier on both of us if I died first. She told me no parent would ever wanted their child to go before them. “I raised you to live long after I’m gone, not to put you in the ground.” I knew what she said was right, but I didn’t like it. Now, I know it’s not fair to expect my mom to give birth, raise me, put up with all of my bullshit and love me anyway, then bury me too. It’s an immature way of thinking about grief. I am meant to rise up out of the ashes in spite of the sorrow–to be wholly myself in the midst of loss–not cower like the scared little girl who felt unsure of herself and unsafe in the world. That’s the greatest gift I could give her. But that doesn’t mean I want to write about it…and it doesn’t mean I’m ready for it either.