When a child turns five, their parents feel this strange sense of pride and longing. Like, five is a “whole hand” and the baby days are very over.
You see, mom, my daughter turned five just after you left us. And now, in a few short days, she’ll turn ten, which means your leaving has turned five. The baby days of your leaving are done. It’s time to grow up.
It seems like simple mathematics but it truly doesn’t communicate the amount of time that you’ve been gone. On some level, it still doesn’t feel real, but on every other plain of life, the void of where you used to be is wide and long.
We recently installed a dining room table into our house. I know, I know, you must be rolling your eyeballs at this, because “eating on your laps is for Philistines!” but, really, we did it for a long time and liked it that way.
Just last night, as we settled down to dinner round the table (side note – I absolutely understand why you loved doing it this way. Looking back, I’d have insisted less on TV dinners as a young kid). So we eat dinner, laugh about our days and then play this hilarious game of Charades. The noise is all familial chaos, and I can’t help but hear the cadence of our family dinners at the table. Where a food fight will happen or we’ll try and figure out the hell it was you cooked for us tonight. I hear that aura of dinners gone past, and see it in front of me, repeated like a chaotic love assembly.
But I’m not here to mourn you. I realised this last week, as I tried to hold the loss of you in my hands again. It used to weigh me down, and it still does. There is a relief in me though, as I feel assured of my ability to provide your legacy with continuance. I feel part of the chain, finally, on my own terms. That is what you wanted for me, after all.
This doesn’t make me miss you any less. It doesn’t make missing you any easier. It is, I know, part of the assimilation I’m supposed to go through. I feel a double grief, where I now think that I know of your going but – in the spirit you infused into me – I feel a tendency to want to not accept it. Acceptance isn’t something you or I could come to easily, but it is something we had thrust upon us, right? Haha.
Your first grandchild is now up to my eyebrows in height. In a year, she will have grown past my head. I mark the time of her life in comparison to you and Dad. Her tenth birthday symbolises the imminent decade of Dad being gone, and the same birthday marks your halfway mark to being gone a decade. I wonder sometimes, Mom, was that planned? I lost you and Dad at all these critical points in my child’s life. There’s an element of life’s cruelty in that, which I can probably never accept, but I have learnt to live with. There’s also an element of beauty in it, because sometimes the saddest things are the most striking. Her existence is evidence of the cycle of life, and how it is all tied back to you and Dad, so remarkably, is a constant reminder.
As I hold the loss of you in my hands again, for one more year, I feel compelled to celebrate you. Just as a raging rainstorm will wash away the dry dust that’s built up over time, I feel it is abating now. My anger at your loss is fading, but it’s replaced by indelible signs of your spirit and character as they play out in my life. Sometimes I look at my diary and see unmissable symbols and patterns of you, that leave me wondering – would I still see them so clearly if you were here?
Mom, you may no longer be at my table, or being “a nag” about something, but you taught me how to set that table for my own life and family, and “be a nag” about the right type of things. Thank you for that.
But Mom, I hope you’re free. I wish I knew for certain that you were liberated in the way you always wished to be. I can only hope to spy on your beyond-life dance in my dreams sometimes. I have no true symbols of what happiness you feel, except for the joy I feel in my own heart, in a moment where I know you would be happy if you were here.
The magnitude of you is not forgotten. The immense void of where you used to be, widens every day. But it’s not because you are lost to me – you are just woven into my every word, on this side of the void.
With my left arm flung over my head as I talk, I will miss you forever.