A few weeks ago, I finished reading “Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed. She is the author that wrote “Wild” which is about her experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. “Tiny Beautiful Things” is a compilation of many “Dear Sugar” advice columns from The Rumpus. At times these columns tore me apart. Like this excerpt from one of her columns:
“It will never be okay, and yet there we were, the two of us more than okay, both of us happier and luckier than anyone has a right to be. You could describe either one of us as ‘joy on wheels,’ though there isn’t one good thing that has happened to either of us that we haven’t experienced through the lens of our grief. I’m not talking about weeping and wailing every day (though sometimes we both did that). I’m talking about what goes on inside, the words unspoken, the shaky quake at the body’s core. There was no mother at our college graduations. There was no mother at our weddings. There was no mother when we sold our first books. There was no mother when our children were born. There was no mother, ever, at any turn for either one of us in our entire adult lives and there never will be.” Page 98
Tears in my eyes. Reminders of the many events and milestones in my own life that I experienced motherless and fatherless. No parents at my college graduation. Or my wedding. I have yet to sell a book, or have a child, but if I ever do, my mom and dad will not be present. Yes, you can tell me they are there in spirit. That will be true, but it does not replace the feeling and the wonder of what it would be like to see their face, to have them hold me, or to tell me they are proud of me. Nothing can replace that. You might also say to me, but how do you know if you would still be close to them? How do you know if your relationship would exist in a way that you would want them there? I would tell you I cannot answer that. I do not know. So instead I have the anticipation of what it would be like. It is like having a dream that you have over and over again, but you always wake up at the same time. So you never really know what happens. You never get to that place in the dream.
Strayed lost her mother at a young age, and after losing her mother, her stepfather (who basically raised her) stopped all contact with her. In a different column Strayed shared a poignant reminder for me:
“I haven’t had parents as an adult. I’ve lived so long without them and yet I carry them with me everyday. They are like two empty bowls I’ve had to repeatedly fill on my own.” Page 307
This is how I have often felt. My mom has been gone for more years than I ever spent with her. It has been 18 years. She died when I was 16. While she will always be a part of my life, there are days when I struggle to remember what she looked and smelled like. The hardest part is that I can barely remember the sound of her voice.