364 Days Later

The autumn was beautiful this year. I used past tense because it already feels like winter here; the trees have been stripped down by wind and their leaves buried under 6 inches of snow. The goats’ coats went from summer-sleek to Defcon Ewok almost overnight and the heat lamps made an early appearance in the baby pens. I’m stepping in melty snow puddles on the kitchen floor and hanging up at least three pairs of snow pants at least twice per day, so it might as well be winter. Hibernation sounds fabulous right about now.

On this date last year we were catching our breath after several days without electricity. A huge windstorm swept through the area and knocked tens of thousands of homes and businesses off the grid. We were supposed to have company for the weekend, and several days of four kids playing Marco Polo in the dark and having epic light saber duels with flashlights had done a number on the place. I was looking forward to the following Monday, the 24th, and the very important phone call I’d scheduled with my mother. Every molecule of every cell of my being wishes now that I’d picked up the phone right then and made that call early. I ended up spending the 24th stuffing clothes into duffel bags, making a motel reservation and packing our van for the frozen road trip back to Colorado to say goodbye to her instead.

When are you going to move on, I’ve been asked. Trust me, I’m trying. I rarely talk about her to anyone except my children. Pain makes people uncomfortable and I’m already socially awkward enough as it is. Even so, missing her isn’t something I do consciously. Its as automatic as blinking. I’m fine, really. I can even smile when I say it now.

Every day starts out with the best of intentions, then little reminders start to creep into my peripheral; notes she had written, pictures, things she had given our family. The recliner she used to sit in and read the kids stories. Eivin’s big green eyes, the set of Sadie’s mouth. Cailin’s chin. There’s always something. Realizing how big the kids are getting, thinking of all the things they’re doing and everything she’s missing. Everything she missed when she was alive, but I had pushed her away.

Guilt has this great way of tearing your heart out in slow motion, beginning afresh every day. It burns holes in your soul like a cigarette through a bed sheet. Regret eats away at you in tiny mouthfuls, slowly but surely consuming. When am I going to move on, you ask? When a song, a scent, a familiar car or coat or pair of shoes doesn’t knock the wind out of me. When something with her handwriting can catch my eye and I won’t feel like I’ve been punched in the gut by Manny Pacquiao. When the guilt, the regret and the overwhelming sadness aren’t waiting around every corner to slap me upside the head the moment I start feeling okay about things again. When I stop missing my mother with every beat of my heart. When I can drive alone or take a shower without crying. When I figure out how to forgive myself. Or, more likely, when I’m dead too.

This has been a really difficult year for our family. It recently became exponentially harder. If there is a place beyond ‘completely emotionally exhausted,’ I’m on a platform above it. I’d love to crawl into a hole until January, but I would miss my husband and babies and goats too much. Besides, who would pick up all the snow pants?
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