I have suffered, over the last week or so, what I’ve come to think of as a “grief relapse”. It feels like having malaria, the initial illness was terrible, but over time I’ve gotten better, and then once in a while, out of the blue, here it is – surfacing again as I try to go about my business. Sometimes I don’t know what causes it – and sometimes I have a pretty good idea. This time, I know the exact moment. I have loads of my mum’s clothes. We were almost the same size, and when Erin and I went through her things, I took home a lot. Some of them I will never wear, I know that, and others I’ve been starting to put on from time to time. Easy things – the occasional pair of shoes, a tee shirt… I’ve been wearing her summer robe, I feel like her when I wrap it around me, and I see how my body is a bit like hers, and it has been a comforting connection. Then there are the big ticket items – things I took not just because they remind me of her, but because they’re lovely intersections between the style she loved and the style I like. Mostly we had different styles, mum and me. Mum loved interesting and bold clothes, and I’m a little more restrained, but I think she would like that I’ve tried to be nervier since she died. Tried to take some of the advice she gave me all my life. (A little colour by your face wouldn’t kill you dear.)
From time to time, I go into the closet where I’ve got her things, (the things of hers that aren’t mine yet) and I look at them and see if I’m yet in a place where I can put them on. Last week, as the weather turned, and fall set in, and it got to be cooler, I went back to the closet, and I looked at her stuff, and I saw a shirt I really loved, one that’s mostly her, but a little me, and I actually smiled thinking of her. (This is, by the way, big news. Feeling the grief give way to happy remembrance in moments has been a tremendous relief. Everybody said it would happen eventually, but I thought you were all liars.) I reached out, and took the hanger down, and as I brought it towards me, the smell of her hit me. In that moment, I can’t describe my feelings, except to say that I missed her terribly. It still seems impossible to me in those moments that I won’t ever see her again. I pressed that cloth to my face and inhaled her, wishing desperately for the real thing, and I wanted her back. For one wild moment, I wanted to call out to her, and I think I even said “Oh Mum come back” as I dissolved. Then I hung the shirt up, pulled myself together and blew my nose, and the moment of crisis was over, but it was just the moment that I relapsed.
It’s lingered – the feeling of simply missing her. We’ve staggered through another holiday without her, this Thanksgiving a little easier than the last one, when we were still so shocked and freshly wounded, with no practice at filling in the mum shaped hole in our worlds. Our Anniversary came and went, without my mum dropping off a gift or calling, and in a terrible blow – two of the plants I moved from her garden to mine dropped dead without so much as a warning. (I blame the raccoons, which is sort of fitting. My mother hated the damn raccoons.)
These relapses, when they come, are hard on my productivity. it’s like moving through mud (which is a big improvement from trying to move through cement, which is what it was like in the beginning, so I guess I’m hopeful that things will keep changing.) Everything takes a little more energy, like something’s been added to my to-do list every day. Put in laundry, send email, miss mum, organize retreat, pick up groceries, miss mum, pack for Rhinebeck, go to Bike Rally meeting, miss mum, drop off mail, buy Elliot shoes, miss mum…. it just takes up so much time, like having a whole other job.
The fog is receding now, the work of it, anyway, and I’m settling back down. (Not ready to open that closet again though. Think I’ll give it a miss for a while.) The blanket (man is it ever taking forever) is still on the needles…
I can show you the finished shawl I knit while I was in my cast though – I think of this as my broken wrist shawl, though it’s properly called “Love and Darkness” which is appropriate I think, since it’s a present for Christmas for someone I love, and I knit it while working through a personal bit of darkness.
It’s normally the sort of thing I’d be able to bang out in no time at all, but one handed, even on big needles (5mm) and out of big yarn (the very delicious Fleece Artist BFL Aran) it took the whole time I was in the cast – one very, very tedious month.
I’ve come to think of this shawl as the thing that put me behind on two deadline driven things – the blanket and the shawl I’m starting this weekend, more about that tomorrow.) And despite it being linked with a period of real frustration, I absolutely love it.
I hope you’re all well, and sorry for the radio silence. It was kinda like I had malaria.
(PS. I continue to waffle around writing about missing mum. I feel like I’m always going on about it, and even “in real life” I edit much of my talk about her. Last night, speaking with a friend, I mentioned it briefly, scanning his face the whole time for signs that he’s sick of it, or that I’m not fun, that it won’t be nice. I didn’t see that, but I worry about it so much that I keep it to myself, as much as I am able. I’m a person who’s pretty good at sorting things out on my insides anyway. That said, several times over the last year – when I’ve been somewhere, like Knit City or a class, one of you will approach me, and say that it’s been helpful to you to hear about what this process is like. That you lost someone around when I did, and that you feel less alone and more hopeful when I write about it. So, I’m trying to set aside those other feelings sometimes, and give in to the urge to write about it when I am able, and I want those of you must surely be sick to damn death of… well, death… that I’m sorry, but those of us in the mud have to stick together a bit. I’ll try to balance it with yarn. Peace out.)