14 years ago, I lost my family. I got a new one. And lost it all over again. It hurts, but hurt fades. I know.
Since my mom died, as the years have gone by, each year has gotten easier. My highschool counselor once told me that the journey through grief was like the growth rings of a tree. The epicenter, the moment of destruction — when the life that you knew disintegrates — is the center of the tree. And as you grow, you move away from that center, round and round you go. Until one day that epicenter doesn’t completely drown you. Years ago, she pointed very close to the center of that circle and said that I was right there, but that one day I would be further out and it wouldn’t seem so devastating. And until this year, my journey through grief and loss, had been just like that.
This year is harder than others. 14 years today. Almost as long as I knew my mother. In a few years, she’ll be gone for as many years as I had her. In the years without her, I had consoled myself with the thought that I had replaced her. And because I had replaced her, I didn’t miss her. As much. The people that adopted me, gave me (an only child raised by a single mother) a mommy, daddy, 2 brothers and 2 sisters. The family I had wanted my whole life. Only it cost me a lot. Maybe too much.
To join their already established family, I assimilated. I erased myself and became what they wanted. I was too aggressive, so I became more passive. I was too stubborn, so I learned to listen. I gave them white hairs with all my going out, so I settled down and got married. I wasn’t religious enough, so I embraced their beliefs and began to practice as they did. They didn’t like my friends, so I gave them up. Their kids, I parented when they didn’t. My inheritance, I put in their hands to do with as they wished. Above all, I tried to earn my place in their family. I just wanted to belong.
My mom once told me that our family consisted of two people. Her. And I. We couldn’t count on anyone else. I didn’t believe her then, but I understand now.
There are so few exceptional people in this world. People you should put your trust in. People you aren’t afraid to give your heart to. People who will accept your devotion, time, obedience…money, and say, “Thank you, but no thank you. Your love is more than enough.” I thought because they were my new family, they were my exceptional people. I was wrong.
I know who my exceptional people are now. And I won’t forget.
Mom, I miss you. More than I ever have. I wish you could see your granddaughters. They are beautiful and funny and often times ferocious, like you. You would have loved to spend time with them. I wish they could have known you. Despite your faults, you knew how to love. But you taught me, and I will pass it on.