Yesterday I posted a quote from an Agatha Christie novel that I quite like. In the context of the story, it captures the melancholy feeling of being lost to time as your peers pass away.
Today I reread it, and wanted to explain, if only for myself.
My mom died 21 years ago.
I don’t talk about it much because I feel like grieving is a private matter. Well before Facebook, I learned to seal those feelings, and most other negative feelings away. Never show them to anyone. It might be a throwback to a decade of silence that I went through rather than speak to someone about my feelings. I only remember visiting my mom’s grave once in that time, and only in the first few months after the accident. It’s a weird vague memory where I put a popsicle stick craft with dried flowers that I made in class alongside my classmates, on her grave. At least I think that’s what happened.
It wasn’t until a decade later, when I was walking through the halls in my old high school, that one of my cousins approached me to check in. So buried was the memory of my mother, that I didn’t – and still don’t – really know all the details. She hugged me, and asked me how I was doing.
It was January 21.
That’s when I realized, what day it was. It was a decade since she died, and I really had no clue. I pretended I knew, and that I was fine. She smiled weakly, and we parted ways.
Afterwards I checked with someone about the cemetery which I assumed she was buried in. It wasn’t far, and I could take a bus out there after school.
It’s not far, but it still gave me ample time to recall that afternoon. I came in from recess and sat down in my desk. One of my uncles appeared at the door and guided me through the halls. I didn’t even really know why he was there. I didn’t have the awareness to ask questions or pick up on anything being wrong. Not even when my grade 1 teacher asked where I was going, as my uncle lead me to his car, and after a brief, perhaps even one line, exchange I remember her response.
“Oh no.” She said, looking upset.
My older brother was already out in the car, and we drove to the hospital. The next thing I remember is a small dark room where my dad sat to tell me that there was an accident. That my little brother was hurt. That my mom didn’t survive.
I didn’t talk about it for ten years. I tried not even to think about it for the entire time. Then without even realizing it, I’m at her grave. I remember exactly where it is in the cemetery and I just stand over it, crying. There’s a lot that I told her. I told her I still thought of her often. I remember trying to express the guilt that I felt over the decade of not visiting, for not asking questions, and for the awful child that I still sometimes feel like I was to her.
I only just remember what she looks like, and only because my younger brother has a large framed photo of her. My only photo of her is a small one of her curled up in a chair in our house reading. I don’t think I can remember what her voice sounds like, though I hope that it’s softer and more forgiving than what I’ve concocted in my mind. I hear her say my name tersely as though she was angry. It’s not a great feeling.
I don’t grieve well. I would go to her grave much more often since then, usually once or twice a year. The tears have by and large dried up when I go, but I don’t think the pain will.
In fact, it’s gotten worse. Losing my mom at a young age left me alone. It drove me away from the rest of my family because I didn’t think it was okay to cry. No one else cried. Not my grandma, or my aunts, or my dad. No one cried I told myeslf. We didn’t talk about it. So I followed their lead. I did cry though, about a lot of other things. Small things.
I cried when my substitute teacher Mrs. Ponzinni ignored me during class one day and told me to sit down. I cried in grade 6 when I accidentally did the wrong homework. I cried when I got hit by a girl on the playground.
I don’t know that I can even really write more. There’s new pain and it is too fresh and uncertain.
One is alone when the last one who remembers is gone.
I feel like I’m the last one who remembers sometimes. I know it’s not the case. My aunts surely miss their sister. My grandparents miss their daughter. My dad misses his wife. My brothers miss their mother.
But our silent grief means that we are very much alone.