It’s almost a year since my mother died. I keep thinking of it as her ‘anniversary’ but it’s difficult to know if it’s hers or if it’s ours: mine and my sister’s, my brother-in-law’s, my nephew’s. All her family and friends, her next door neighbour she went on walks with, her co-teacher she worked with for twenty-five years, the generations of students. Soon it will be a year since we’ve had to learn to get along without her, to quell the impulse to text her to tell her about the new shoes we got on sale, to ask her how her garden is doing this year. I guess it’s our anniversary after all.
I both know and don’t know what to expect. I know it will be a difficult day, but what hasn’t been difficult about this year? What will change to make that day worse than any other? People have asked me what I plan to do and have made suggestions: scream into the wind, throw plates at the wall, buy some roses because she liked roses.
We ended up putting the ashes in the bay, pretty much in the middle, within sight of the lighthouse and the bridge and what’s left of the mangroves at home. Originally I’d wanted to put them in on the beach itself but there are laws about these sorts of things, so that’s what we did: chartered a fishing boat and went out the day after the memorial at her school, and gave the bright pink urn to the ocean.
A couple of weeks later I was in the Bay Area at the Alpine Butterfly Lodge, having tea with a friend who came special from San Jose to see me. We hadn’t wanted to bury her, I said, because it just didn’t seem like her, but it’s weird not to have a place to go. Who knows when I’ll be back there.
Well, said my friend. All water is the same water. You can go wherever you want, when you want to be with her, as long as there’s water.
Mom and I did go to Island Bay, when she came to visit, both times I think. The second time we went on the ferry across the Strait, and went to the beach in Golden Bay, so that counts too. I keep thinking that I’ll go to the beach on that day too, in a couple weeks, and look out at the water, which is the same water as the bay at home, by the island, where we put the ashes.
Where are you, I sometimes think. I don’t talk to her much because I don’t like that I won’t hear back. Where are you where are you, where did you go, where can you be now?
“She’ll always be with you,” people have said to me. “She’ll always be a part of you.”
No. They have been wrong about that, more than is polite to express. She is so completely gone, so completely far away. I don’t feel her presence. I don’t hear her voice. I don’t sense her near me. Where are you, where have you gone, why did you leave? Will I ever see you again?
But I’ll go to the beach anyway, I think, on that day. I have to try.