My mother’s birthday is in five days. She would have been seventy-one years old. It’s been almost a year and a half since she’s gone, and it doesn’t get any easier. At times it gets worse. She was an amazing woman. Funny, witty, hardheaded, but, oh, so loving. It’s impossible not to feel pain or loss on a daily basis. My nightmare in life has always been to be stuck with my stepfather in HER house, surrounded by HER things. This man just doesn’t die— he’s ten years older than my mother, survivor of the Vietnam War—many times over—and a PTSD’d asshole to boot. A narcissistic piece of shit, whose narcissism becomes even more and more apparent as the days go by, I cannot help but wonder if he killed my mother with his cruel words, temper tantrums, and inability to connect emotionally on any level.
I know she settled when she married him. I was only five when this occurred and believed he was my biological father until the age of nineteen, I remembered he wasn’t there when I was younger, but my mother explained it away by saying that he was away in the military during that time. I know she meant well by this lie—she felt it would be too complicated for me to understand notions of divorce, and what not. But when I learned the truth, I was simply relieved. That asshole is not my biological father. That asshole’s blood does not run in my blood. I know the question is—then whose blood runs in your blood? The answer: another asshole’s, but at least not this asshole’s.
Every time, I’m forced to speak to him on the phone, I’m reminded that I am nowhere home. Currently, I live in a small apartment in Santa Monica, CA, but my heart was in Texas with my mother. Unmarried and childless, my home was my mother. She was my safety net, my sounding board, the only person who really gave a deep shit about me.
My brother, Michael, is five years younger and in his own world of pain. His method of grief is not dealing with it. I know that I am a constant reminder of my mother to him, and we do not speak on the phone like we once did, not surprising since our relationship has completely changed ever since he got married. Sadly, I know he has no one to talk to, especially since his wife, Renée, was unfaithful to him the year before my mother passed, but that’s another story. When my mother was alive Renée would never understand my brother’s devotion to my mother, nor why they had to move back to his hometown near mom after she became ill with diabetes. She never enjoyed family lunches or breakfasts with my family, because in some weird way, she was admittedly jealous of his affection towards my mother. Probably because we were raised in a more of a Hispanic household, where family is the center of everything, and she in a more Caucasian, WASPy, upbringing. My stepfather, Ronald, is also Caucasian, and this might explain his coldness towards us—even though Michael is his biological son, but my biological dad is also Caucasian– of Irish descent. My stepfather is of German descent, not that it really matters, a father should show love whatever his descent. But in my household, the Hispanic side over powered the Caucasian side.
I miss the sound of my mother’s voice. “Mija,” she would always say in Spanish, short for “mi hija”— in English the translation is “my daughter”—a term of endearment. “Mija, are you taking care of yourself? Mija, do you need any money? Mija, don’t worry, you can do anything you set your mind to.” I miss hearing her say these words to me.
Now, I am left with this asshole step-father, who is the executor of her will, who is mismanaging funds, and digging the estate he and my mother built together into a deep dark hole. Afraid and with no one to really talk to, I called him up with the news of my uterine fibroids that may need to be operated, his response was, “well, I need a hip replacement”– it’s always been a competition. If I had mentioned this to my mother, she would have flown to California immediately and been there for me in ways only a mother can. She would have cared. He does not.
As her birthday approaches, I think of the 70th surprise birthday party I never got to throw her, how I was not there when she started dialysis, and how I entrusted her health into the hands of this dark soul. I think of the small accident she was in two days before she passed, because he let her drive herself to dialysis— something you should never do, and I think of how I implored her to go to the doctor the following day to get checked out, and I think of how she died the following morning. My brother and my father could have taken her to the doctor and she would have lived, and I know if I had been in Texas I would have taken her, like I always did, but I was in California pursing my dream.
Second year grief is when the shock wears off and you only wish you could be numb. It’s when the reality hits that your loved one is gone, and there is nothing you can do about it, but let the waves of pain hit you over and over again. I wish I were on antidepressants. I wish I could change back time. I wish I could find myself again. My drive, ambition and zest for life are gone, but sometimes I do feel the sun on my face when I think of all the travels my mother and I enjoyed. She still visits me in my dreams, but not as frequently. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a visitation dream. These are the vivid dreams, where it seems like she forces her way into my mind, into my dream, to send me the message that she is fine. In the last one, I saw her at a theater after a play. She was wearing an emerald-green and gold gown. Her hair was long and curly. Beautiful. She must have been thirty-years-old and was smiling radiantly. I literally ran into her, and when I realized who she was, I drew her close and hugged her, then I woke up and she was gone. I was so shocked to see her in my dream, that when I jolted awake I twisted my neck creating a pinched nerve and had to go to the hospital for treatment it was so painful.
Needless to say, I miss her and I only hope that one day I’ll be whole again. I hope one day I can wake up in the morning and find a good reason to be alive, because the thought, “mom would have wanted you to live your life fully” doesn’t quite motivate me yet. She’s still not here.