It was five months ago today that you left us. My sisters and I tried to have Thanksgiving without you and it didn’t work. I had a meltdown the way I often do, and you weren’t here to talk me through it. You weren’t here to remind my sisters that my withdrawal, my feral child behavior, has nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. You weren’t here to be the only person who understands me on every level, and to talk me out of drawing the blinds in my apartment and shutting out the world. You weren’t here to listen to me sob and blubber and feel sorry for myself.
I don’t know how to process anything anymore. My thoughts drift away from me, into the ether, and I cannot keep a hold of them or make sense of them without you. There is no one to bounce ideas off of anymore, and no one to talk me off the ledge of breaking down, at least no one as masterful and understanding as you were. All our lives, when we rolled our eyes or breathed a long and frustrated sigh about some motherly behavior of yours that we perceived as overbearing, you promised us we would miss you when you were gone. That was a little morbid on your part, but you were right.
I keep thinking about how I am supposed to do the holidays without you here. My sisters have children. They have tiny humans who depend on them for stability and care and love. They have dependents for whom they have to get out of bed every morning and for whom they have to at least pretend to not be completely broken. I wouldn’t say I envy them that. On the contrary, I cannot imagine working like I do and having to be “on” at home as well.
Although people have invited me to spend holidays with them, I have a feeling that I will end up hiding out. If you were here, we would be hiding out together. That was the closest thing we had to a Christmas tradition in recent years – quietly enjoying time alone together when all the world seems to be closed down and hunkered in with their loved ones.
This year I thought I would actually get a tree and maybe wrap some presents. But that didn’t happen. I hoped maybe if I transformed my apartment into a winter wonderland, I would start to feel more alive and more in the spirit. Turns out, I didn’t have the energy to do that, and it probably would not have made a difference. If anything, it would probably feel like pressure, and I would become anxious, and then I would be resentful. If I am being honest, I have given up on the idea. Maybe next year.
Although, maybe that’s what the Christmas Spirit really is – resentment. Many people who have seemingly healthy families who love them and who have no obvious reason not to enjoy the holidays seem to feel resentful of the pressure. There is pressure to buy gifts, to go places, to indulge in foods you don’t actually want to eat, to spend time with people who irritate you. As sad as it is that our family is almost nonexistent, there is something to be said for not being under pressure to run all over the place for the holidays.
How are you not here? My brain continually circles back to this nonsensical reality where you no longer exist, and I continually fail to make any sense of it. I reach for the phone to call you. I pick something up when I’m in a store, thinking I’ll buy it for you. I sit down to write you emails. I bookmark videos for you. I hold my breath, waiting until I can talk to you again.
That’s the funniest part, I think, the part that suggests that the brain is not wired for this kind of loss and trauma. See, I file things away for you.
I have to tell Mom about this.
Sometimes that thought is unconscious, and flutters there for a moment before I remember that you are not here and I won’t be able to tell you anything ever again. And sometimes I think that thought, knowing full well that you are buried in the frozen ground and that I am just filing this away in perpetuity. There is a mental file in my brain that started as you took your last breaths, and it will be growing for the rest of my life.