Sunday, February 16, 2014

Someone Like You

I've always really identified with that Adele song, "Someone Like You."  Not because I have that character in my life as such, but because I am someone who turns up out of the blue, uninvited. Life is short, I figure.

I always reinterpret the refrain, however. And by that I mean I won't allow myself to look up the lyrics and prove myself wrong. The way I think she intended it is this:

"Don't forget me," I begged.
"I'll remember," you said. 
Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead. 

In my head, I see that as Adele on the front step, her ex in the doorway, giving her the tiniest bit of generosity in saying that he'll remember her. It's a shared moment, but she is definitely more vulnerable. But the way I choose to think of it is this:

"Don't forget me, I beg," I'll remember you said. 
"Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead."

To me, that means that he has just as much vulnerability as she does; he's moved on but also doesn't want to be forgotten. I like that version better, of course. I guess I like to think that there are some people -- friends or lovers -- who will always have importance in our lives, no matter the number of years that have passed.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Last week I listened to a parenting podcast that told the story of an expectant mother losing her mother to suicide. It threw me into an introspective sadness, and, weeping, I wrote a letter to my mom. I'd been avoiding writing it for 15 years; the first draft of the letter was written in ink in a note pad and, I think, had maybe 3 words.

Losing my mom has been sort of a defining sadness for me -- a terrible rite of passage at the very start of my adulthood. I've spent whole weeks crying in my office every day, lost countless sentences in my throat that had very unexpectedly brought up her memory. 

But after I wrote the letter, an amazing thing happened: I began to see from a larger perspective. It's not so much amazing that I opened my eyes, really. I guess the amazing thing was that I had never seen this before.

What I realized is that no matter how terrible the pain of losing my mom was, it was the natural order of things. 

When I was 16, I lost a dear childhood friend. At his wake, his grandmother said to me, "No one should ever have to bury her own grandson." I thought of her last week, and how unimaginable it would be for me to have to bury my son. And then it clicked into place: The parents care for the children, then the children care for the parents, and then the children lose the parents. I knew the first two parts, but I had never connected the third until this week. I know now that as much as I miss her, it was the way things should happen. I know this must seem terribly obvious, but I swear, it was a revelation to me. And it gave me a peace that I hadn't felt since she passed.

The second realization I had was that since she died, I had never considered her loss. I had always felt cheated for having lost her as a mother. It was 15 years ago; I feel like I have lived a whole lifetime since then, and she hasn't gotten to see any of it. And I finally thought of it as a mom. I lost her -- but she lost me, too, and all of her children at once. How terrible that must have been for her. And once I finally considered that, for the first time in my selfish brain, I was less concerned with my own loss. 

From the perspective of this moment, I think that I will miss my mom forever. But I think that it maybe won't always have to hurt so much. And I am really grateful for that.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Motherless mother

I've been thinking a lot about my mom today. More than a decade ago, my therapist suggested I write her a letter. Today seems as good a day as any. I'm posting it because when I started getting so sad this afternoon thinking of her, I googled "motherless mothers," to see how other people were handling it, to feel a tiny bit less alone. Well, if you're here because you did the same thing, you're not alone.

Dear Mom,
It's been 15 years since I thanked you at your bedside. You were floating in and out of consciousness; I don't know if you heard me. I'm sorry that I waited so long.
I'm sorry for so many things, of course. Every time I lost patience when I was taking care of you, every moment I was selfish, impatient for you to get better. 
I miss you, of course. I miss talking to you and cuddling with you. But I really ache for you to see who I am now.
I'm married, and I'm a mother. We have a boy, Abbott, who is three. Mom, he's so much like me. I remember Dad talking about how if anything new entered the house, I'd know immediately. He's the exact same way. Last week, I put two miniature Play-dohs into his big bin of Play-doh equipment, where he doesn't even play that often, and he noticed it within a minute of coming down the stairs. He's like you, too: He's so sweet, and very thoughtful. Oh, and I know that he's your grandson because every time he has gas, he looks up and frantically says, "I don't have to poop!" 
I wish you could see him, but more than that, I wish he could see you. We talk about you, and I show him pictures, and I try not to get sad. But it's hard. 
I wish I were more like you as a mom. I wish I were more patient and kind. But I have always been a lot more like Dad, haven't I? But I have become so much more compassionate. I like to think you'd be so surprised and delighted, Mom. 
I'm still working at the paper. I'm an editor now. I dress up, even. 
I get sad sometimes when I think of you. It's an emptiness that's nearly always there. But you know when I miss you the most? When something great is happening. I want so badly to share it with you, so that you can be proud of me. I'm respected, and loved, and you worked so hard for me to be able to have these things. I just want you to see what I've
I would never have become an atheist if I'd known it would take you away from me, again, for good. It's a lonely reality.
You will always be one of the most important forces in my life. Thank you for everything.
Your Judy

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Memory Full Error

At the end of January, my sister texted me that she was missing our mom. That was normal, I thought, with the anniversary of her death coming up in 2 days.
But I was wrong. It *was* the anniversary of her death. And it revealed a secret I've been keeping for 15 years: I can never remember the date that my mom died. Even though for 10 years my whole family gathered for a memorial ceremony on that date, I can't ever know for certain whether it's the 24th or the 26th. This year, I was on the wrong side of the coin. I know I'll forget again by this time next year.
Then last week, a good friend told me that he and his wife are expecting a baby. He told me the date, in early August. I looked at the calendar on the wall and said, "Oh, you guys have plenty of time!" He looked at me kind of strangely but we kept talking baby. So exciting.
So. A couple days later I heard that dmb song "What Would You Say" on the radio. As he sings, "Every day has its way of being forgotten -- Mom, it's my birthday!" I thought, well, I guess I could see that happening. And then it hit me: That due date, in early August? It's Abbott's birthday. Not close. Not nearby. It IS Abbott's birthday.
I called my friend and said, hey, she's due on Abbott's birthday, isn't she? And he said, yeah, I thought it was kind of strange that you didn't say anything.
I don't know how I could have forgotten that. It's as though somehow in the past couple decades I have stopped taking in new information. And it's not like dates even take up that much room! 5 bytes, at most. I can't tell you for sure, but I think I miss being able to remember things.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

The secret life of editors

Yesterday, someone mentioned on Facebook that she feels a tiny bit of grammar-related anxiety when she comments on my posts. I know there's probably something from our shared past that led to that; she and I went to school together from 7th grade through graduation. Surely I made some sort of semantic argument to or near her, or said something shitty and judgmental about someone else's speech. But no, she said, it's because I work with words for a living. This has come up with a few other friends, too; mostly the way it manifests is that they'll type something into the instant messaging box, edit or delete, and go again. I always tell people not to; I type strokey all the time in instant messaging. I am in no position to judge.

So I let this FB friend in on the secret that I often look words up before I post, just to be sure. But here's the bigger truth: Editors don't know all of the language.

I mean, I can't speak for all editors. But the editors I know? Don't know everything. Especially me. I'm a line editor. I think copy editors -- even those who really like me -- would tell you that there's a metric TON I don't know. Like, I'll never know lay and lie. That's just never going to stick. But I for sure know someone who does know it. If I find myself looking at a structure I don't know, I just follow these two rules. It always works.

1. Ask around.
2. Write around the problem.

And frankly, most times I just skip to No. 2. I recreate sentences like nobody's business.

I don't even live by the rules I do know. I know I'm on the wrong side of "hopefully." I use singular they. And I think it's funny to write conversationally and make up words.

So worry not, friends! I am never, ever judging what you write. I'm too busy looking up words and rewriting sentences of my own.