For her anniversary last Monday I didn’t light candles or write a letter. I didn’t go to the sea by myself, as I’d halfway thought I would do. I went snorkeling at Shelly Bay with a school group through my volunteer gig and had lunch at an outdoor cafe and didn’t mention it to anyone. My friend brought me flowers that evening and we went to dinner and for a walk around the neighbourhood; we argued and then made up. I was in touch with my sister. Friends and family texted and emailed and called with their love and support, and I said thank you. It was just a day. I tried not to think about her very much.
She bought me Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood and sent them when they came out, in hardcover, to Wellington because she knew I would want to read them so bad. Now MaddAddam is out (in hardcover) and she will never read it and we will never talk about it the way we did about the first two.
It’s things like that that still hit me hard in the chest, at the end of this anxious, exhausted year. Little things, little details. I’m going to a Thanksgiving dinner at an American friend’s house this weekend and we’ve been emailing back and forth about stuffing, and I said something like, “Well, my mom used to put broccoli and raisins in her stuffing so what do I know?” and it doesn’t hurt, not immediately. It’s not a big deal: she really did put broccoli in her stuffing, which I never learned to make. (I don’t know how to roast a turkey either so I am bringing a side dish I found on the internet to this dinner). I mention her all the time, I refer to her cancer and death if the situation requires, it’s all fine—until I’m be walking down the street on one errand or another, counting how long it’s been since I worked, worrying that I am now suddenly and irrevocably unemployable, and that’s when it hurts, that’s when I get teary, that’s when I pick a fight with my friend because I am so sad and angry and confused and I miss Mom so much and I never learned how to make that weird broccoli stuffing and she won’t send me a new book by a shared favourite author and I just want to talk to my mom and I don’t get to, not ever again.
But where do you go from there, a year later? “I miss my mom,” okay, sure—but now what? Nothing changed last Monday. I was still here, where I am, and she was still wherever she is. That won’t change either.