Let’s just call grief what it really is: a wily, slimy, and brutally persistent motherfucker. Grief is like moths that thump against the lampshade until I am almost mad with their noise, except these moths are 40 pounds apiece and they are slamming against the inside of my skull. It’s a weight in my guts, a blazing coal between my eyes, a vise around my head.
This grief has no funeral. There was no obituary. What in the world would it say? Mother-child bond broken beyond repair; death date is unknown because the mother was the foolish frog in the water pot who didn’t know she was being boiled alive. Responsibility for the death lies in many hands, so for the sake of simplicity the burden is laid at the feet of the mother. She should have done better, so say we all, and amen.
Oh, how sad. Cry me a damn river.
I let it happen. Some other people helped, but I am the mother. Maybe I deserved it.
I am exhausted from trying to repair those bonds, but they are so fragile, so full of holes, so eaten away by wounds and resentments, that I almost can’t see them anymore.
Not almost. You don’t know, you whose bonds with your children are intact. You can’t see or hear or taste those bonds, but when they are destroyed, there is an empty space. The empty space is infinitely more visible than the bond that once lived there.
Oh, how sad. Cry me a damn river.
I did deserve it. I’m sure of it.
But how can I?
How can they?
There is no curiosity in this story; no rubbernecking interest to be had. Just two teenage children who live with their dad and hate their mom. How pedestrian. How ever-fucking ordinary.
Except it’s not. And anyway, why don’t you cry me a damn river? It’s not like they’re dead (said Robert).
It’s just that they hate me.
You are thinking, Oh, no, they don’t hate you! You are thinking, Oh, but I was terrible to my mom when I was their age! You are thinking, Hang on! It will all get better when they get older!
But this is not normal teenage nastiness run amok. I am not their family anymore. I am the person who was once, long ago, their mother. And a bad one. Terrible, in fact, because why remember the good when hate is so damn satisfying? Why remember what was sweet and joyful when anger can make you belong to your other family? Why take a chance when resentment makes you invulnerable?
Why try, when you can just lay back and not try? Why not just cling to what was bad (and there was much that was bad; I can measure what was bad by the weight of the regret I carry) and let its energy tell you a story?
The bond is broken and I am not their family anymore.
Jackie and Amy were the lucky ones. The smart ones.
I have to let go because I am dying.
Yeah, I know, cry me a river.
But I am, in fact, dying. There are no two people I would sooner die for than Jacob and Abbie, no two people who I love more, but if I die, they will not be saved. The consequences of this situation will not evaporate from their lives.
Would they? Sometimes, at 3 am, I think that my disappearance would fix everything for them. At 6 pm I know that’s not true, but 3 am is as wily and slimy as grief.
And Jacob and Abbie are not my only people. There are no people I love more, but there are people I love as much.
I think they miss me, those other people who love me, lost as I am in my grief and my striving and my constant building-of-bridges-that-go-nowhere.
How do I let go of them? Cut them loose?
I can’t imagine.
But I have heard that I must. The person with the letters after her name, and the doctor, and the husband, and God forgive me, even the little red-headed boy, all know. They know.
I am broken.
And the people said: Oh, how sad. Cry me a damn river.
I mean really, it’s not like they’re dead.
It’s not like I didn’t deserve it.