Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

A letter I'll never send

Dear Momma,

Square one: I’m really fucking scared. You don’t need to know that, since it won’t make either of us feel any better about anything. I almost wish I could tell you, just to get it off my chest, but I think you already know, and saying it will just crush us both.

Point two: Things never seem to work out as planned, do they? Aside from never, ever planning that you would get cancer (let’s face it—we both expected it would be Daddy before it would be you), I never thought I’d plan my life around your illness and decline and eventual passing. Here I am, planning. You don’t know that we wanted to have a child by now, and you don’t know that we’re going to start trying as soon as Brooke gets a job. That’s a lot of pressure for her, isn’t it? Even more pressure since you’re not doing well; I want you to meet at least one of my children. Will knowing that motivate you to get better?

Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m blaming you for this. I’m not angry with you or your body, just your doctors and the lazy assed cancer researchers sipping Mai Tais in San Antonio this week. I want her to come back from that conference with a solution, a way for you to beat these damn tumors. I hate that your liver is so big that it sticks out under your ribs. I hate that on Monday you had three quarts of fluid in your right lung and that you surely have more fluid there now. Hate it.

When I was three, I told you that I hated you. My favorite bathing suit was in the wash, and I threw a tantrum over having to wear a different one. I was prostrate on the floor screaming that it smelled like fish and I hated it and I hated you. You carefully hid a smirk and told me that you’ll always love me, even if I became a bank robber and changed my name to Anne. That made me bawl and forgive you your laundry inequities. What will I do without you to tell that story whenever you introduce me to someone?

Back to issue two: Hope is planning too, but Paul’s just pretending nothing is wrong. She’s terribly sad about you, but she’s fearful about Paul’s reaction, especially based on how he was after Brock died. Brooke doesn’t know what she’s going to do about me. It’s a fairly typical dynamic for Brooke and me, I would guess: I try to take care of you and she tries to take care of me. Hope is in the position of taking care of you and Paul and Hannah. Maybe Brooke can take care of her a little.

Item number three: Daddy. I hate to admit it, but I don’t think I can do it, Mom. I can’t take care of Daddy, but you know my conscience won’t let me not try. He’ll drink and I’ll struggle, he’ll say I’m controlling him and I’ll be in a rage, and in the end, we’ll both be worse for it. We will both be worse without you.

The last part: Lately, I’ve been finding more and more about you that is like me and more about me that is like you. At the cabin, I realized that we have the same arms and shoulders and that your legs really are just like mine. We have the same weird vein in one calf and the same spot on our backs that will always get a cavernous blackhead. Losing you is like losing my clone, or perhaps that losing you is like a clone losing the master copy. I’m not you but I’m nearly you, and a copy of a copy is never as good as the original. I mean that I won’t have anything to work from when you’re gone, that a part of me—the foundation, maybe—will degrade.

Clearly, this isn’t a letter I can send to you, and I wrote it knowing that I wouldn’t. I wrote it knowing that someone else needs to see this so that I’m not living this terror in the vacuum of my house. I’m sorry that there is so much I can’t tell you. It just wouldn’t help us. You need to know that I’ll be okay when you’re gone, and I’d rather lie about it than have to give you bad news.



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