Every year, an October note

Posted on October 2, 2016


Seven years ago today I will wake up to a phone call that you were at your apartment, had trouble breathing, called an ambulance, went into cardiac arrest, but had signed a DNR.

You will be legally dead. There is nothing I can do. You are an organ donor, so they have kept you on life support, but I – as your legal next of kin – will have to take another phone call. This phone call will be from a doctor asking my permission to take you off of life support.

In some way I will kill you.

Seven years ago last night I will have thought that, although I love you, my life would in some way be easier without you.

How I learned never to speak out loud that which I would not have happen.

In some way I will kill you.

I will lean against my bedroom wall, slide down to the floor. I will end the phone call. I won’t cry. I will tell my boyfriend at the time, who will in turn tell me he can’t miss work for this but that he’s very sorry. I will tell one of my roommates that I can’t drive her to school because my mother – although technically alive – is legally dead. Her boyfriend will get at least a little upset for having to drive her instead. I will wake up my other roommate. It’s four days before her birthday. “My mom is dead.” I will say. How should anyone receive that news?

I will think of the fight we had days before. I will think “Thank god I called back and cleared the air before this.” I will think “Of course. Of course. Of course.” I will remember the night our house flooded and /he/ said “You can never catch a break can you?”  I will think “Of course. Of course. Of course.” Looking back on this year I think “Of course. Of course. Of course.”

I will think this isn’t real.

Somehow two days will pass. I don’t remember them. Did I call dad and tell him? I don’t remember. I don’t remember.

I get a phone call. His voice is soft, gentle. For a doctor, his bedside manner is impeccable. He knows what he is doing. He knows what he is doing to me.

“I need your permission to take her off life support.”


In some way I will kill you.

There is a moment where my body does not feel like it is my own. It is like waking from a dream that is very much like reality and then living in its afterglow.  But it’s not quite a dream and not quite a nightmare. You are not scared when you wake up but this was not a pleasant experience. You do get to spend your whole day living in its wake, though.

I tell my teachers “my mom died.” They tell me “I’m very sorry. Let me know when you want to retake the test.”

I will call your phone to listen to your voicemail message until your phone is shut off.

I will drive to your apartment in East Texas to pack up the things I want to keep. The rest we donate to an elderly woman moving in after you. Your sister will find what is effectively a will on your computer. It hints that you knew you would die soon.

How could you possibly know?

I will drive to your funeral. I will see my dad in my sideview mirror walking up to my car and realize that this is real. I will get out of my car and lose it.

I will remember the time he came to our house to return my sweater on a day he wasn’t supposed to have me. It was because my grandpa had died.

I will cry into his grey suit jacket standing outside of the church you visited infrequently but where people have gathered to remember you. There will be nothing anyone can do. This will be the first time I will cry like this.

I will sit in a room with people who knew you but maybe didn’t know you at all.

The pastor will ask me to talk of a memory I had. I will recall it. Something about horses. I will remember the smell of dry red wine and Marlboro reds. I will remember the sound of your voice rasping against the whisper of wind through the cracked window. I will hear the hollow clink of your empty glass as you set it on the island in the kitchen for a refill. I will hear the spark of your lighter. I will remember the pattern of the breakfast nook wallpaper. How often did I get lost in that while you… you talked.

We would talk.

Sometimes we would talk about you. Sometimes we would talk about me. Sometimes it was religion, the future, time, space, love, life, us, them, happiness, sadness. I would tell you that you don’t eat because you drink and smoke too much. They curb your appetite. “Ah, yes. That’s true.” You will say. 86 pounds. How can a grown adult weight only 86 pounds? You will manage it.

I know so much about every conversation we had. The sound of your laughter echoes inside me. Every harsh word, every declaration of love are written inside of me.

I know so much. I don’t know anything.

It took me so long to stop being angry with you. A passive suicide, the psychs call it. You knew you were dying but didn’t “rage, rage against the dying of the light,” as Thomas would say. Oh, but you raged. You’d rage against me, against anyone who didn’t bat for your team. Against yourself.

I was so angry for so long. Did you know Kayla, Lorraine and April are all married? I never dreamt of it but now, but now you could never help me pick a dress. I’d have let you have your glass of wine while I looked. You never saw me graduate college. You barely saw me graduate high school – were you able to stumble your way back to the car okay then? I wasn’t there to make sure.

I guess I’m still angry. I don’t get the chance anymore to have a tomorrow with you. I haven’t had that chance for so long. If I call you, you won’t answer. That’s all you wanted, wasn’t it? A phone call? You won’t pick up now, though.

Did you know that was the outcome?

My anger has subsided. Now it’s just the questions. Always the questions. I could go mad from them all.

Did you know you were dying? When you called the ambulance, did you know? Did you know you would die?

Did you try to call me? Did you want to? Did you think about it? Were you worried it would just hurt me?

Were you scared? Did you feel alone?

Grandma died this year. I got the call on Mother’s Day. At least there’s not /another/ day to feel shitty about.

One time she fell and called her pastor before the ambulance. Dad got mad at her. Why wouldn’t you call an ambulance first, he asked. “I don’t want to die alone.” She told me. “I didn’t want to die around strangers. I thought I would die. I didn’t want to die alone.” Thinking about that really fucks me up…

Did you die alone? Did you think “this is it?” Did you think about how you would never talk to me again? Did you think about the fight we’d had, but that we’d made up? Were you scared? Was there someone to comfort you? Did you feel surrounded by people who weren’t invested in you? Did you feel alone?

Did you think “No, I’m not ready?” Did you wish you had more time? Did you think “No, this is fine?” Were you at peace?

Every day. Every day. Wake, coffee, work, home, drink, drink, drink. Did I know you while you were sober? When you would fall asleep at the dining room table I sometimes would get worried you weren’t alive. I’d wait for your back to rise and fall. Just one breath. Just one breath.

If you were too sad to be alive…

I don’t know how to feel about this. If it was your choice, at least you chose it. But that means you left me. If it wasn’t your choice, then you were probably terrified and alone. God, you were terrified and alone and I was asleep after a night of thinking that a life without you would be an easier life.

I had to go through an old email account thanks to a security breach. I still have emails from you. On your birthday (Sept. 18) you emailed me.

“If you have a minute, give me a call. I would love to share with you what I got from Pam. I know it’s a Friday, so I’ll be brief. Love you…”

You didn’t have to apologize to me, it was your birthday.

I spent so much of my time then trying to run from you.

I loved you. God, I loved you so much. How could I not? You were my mother. You were my best friend. You made me feel horrible.

I loved you. I loved you so much but our relationship was a shit show. I can still see the broken glass on the floor outside my bedroom door.

Imagine my surprise when I started my laundry and you told me to go fuck myself.

I went on medicine for a while but it didn’t sit well with me. I would never sleep. I can’t sleep right anymore. I can’t remember if it was like this before you left. I can’t remember if it was like this before the medicine. I just remember that being awake for two and a half days straight  – no sleep – was no big deal. That was my schedule. Two and half days awake, one full day asleep.

How I wished I could sleep and never wake up.

When I got off the medicine I rediscovered what it was like to be a human again.

All the medicine. I’m scared of medicine. I’m scared of what medicine won’t let me feel. Even if it hurts I want to be alive.

Would you wish you were still alive?

How do I feel about you? I love you so much I hate you. You hurt me so much, you loved me so much. I know you loved me but you were so fucked up. You were so fucked up AT me. Was I so deserving? I suppose I was “forged in the fires of your pain.” I will be the product of… whatever you were.

You and /him./ You were such good friends, the two of you. You’d smoke cigarettes together in the morning. I was so surprised you accepted him so easily. But I suppose it makes sense. In the end you are the same to me. It’s why it was so hard for me to let him go.

In a way I killed you.

I had to get a new phone. I lose my voicemails. The last voicemails from you.

In a way I kill you.

In this note I tell the story of your death. You are dead. You are a bag of ashes in a plastic box at dad’s house until I work up the courage and save up the money to scatter you around the globe.

Do you deserve it? You were so mean to me sometimes.

Love is giving everything even if you get nothing in return.

Everything. Everything all of the time. Everything no matter what. You may not get anything, but give everything. Always. Always everything. If you don’t give your all, you aren’t loving enough.

I want to talk to you about what’s happening in my life right now. I want to hear your advice. You’re my mom, I want to talk to you. I want to tell you about all the little things and all of the big ones and you aren’t there. You won’t ever be there again.


In one year I will right about this again.

So it goes.

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Posted in: Musings