It’s still warm and clear every day, I’m still wearing light dresses to work, but it’s getting dark earlier and earlier and last night I found myself feeling ever so slightly chilly under the covers. Wellington hasn’t seen a summer like this for years and I can almost believe that it won’t be gray and rainy in a few weeks or months or that I won’t be using a dehumidifier to dry my clothes in the lounge. I walk home along the waterfront almost every afternoon and feel the absence of the wind like it’s its own actual presence.
You get free counseling at the Cancer Society here in New Zealand, even if you’re a family member, even if the person with cancer didn’t live or die in New Zealand, even if that person doesn’t have cancer anymore and won’t die again because she had and she did, even if it’s all over now. Last year several friends gently suggested I go so I went, and I still go, sometimes.
I smile and talk and laugh—my counselor looks like a regular middle-aged bleeding-heart lady but she wears bright red shoes and has a bit of a mouth on her—and cry and roll my eyes and ask stupid questions, when I go. I say:
“I’m almost thirty-eight years old, shouldn’t I be past needing my mother?”
“I mean, I knew what to expect—I’ve done the reading—but this is ridiculous.”
“I mean, I shouldn’t complain. Life is good. I have every privilege in the world.”
“It’s just so fucking stupid, you know? Like, someone dies, and then you never see or talk to them again and it is such bullshit.”
“You’re right, you’re right. I know you’re right.”
I know that it will get better. I know it’s only been four months. I know I will be able to think about her and not think about the wheelchair, the morphine, the short sharp breaths. I know I will forget how I had to brush her teeth for her—how do you even do that for someone else, I had no idea, I had to just make it up–and how much she hated it, how she couldn’t always follow my prompt to spit in the little plastic lunch container and would just spit down her night gown or onto the tray table, looking up at me bewildered and unconcerned. I know I will be able to think about things she said or did and not automatically calculate how many years she had left before she got sick. I know there will come a time when I won’t think about how long it’s been since I talked to her. I know I will stop writing about this, eventually.
In the meantime, the days stay bright and the nights get dark.