I love you. I love you. I love you. Over and over again. 

I am roaming again. 

My stomach aches and I can’t sleep. I’ve fed it something that I knew would come back and haunt me this evening. I don’t know why I do this to myself. So the acid rises up to my throat and there’s the uncomfortable gurgle deep in my guts. 

Bad stomach, they say, genetic.. you got it bad from both sides. 

And then I think of my mother.

You are not her. My sister says. She tells me this multiple times over my lifetime and my own mortality keeps me awake sometimes at night, when the acid rises and my guts bubble. 

I should get to a doctor I think. Get this checked out. But I won’t. Because I know I am not her. 

Instead, I’m in my brain… thinking of a life without me. Thinking of the letters that I write to my boys, that everyone thinks are so sweet. And I say yes, it’s so they know how they were growing up. But in reality it so they can hear from me if ever I go too early. They’ll have my voice with them. Saying I love you. I love you. I love you. Over and over again. 

And I am in my brain. Apologizing to the baby because he doesn’t have as many letters as his older brother. And calling a friend that will take care of their photos and writing down all of the things I do to keep this boat floating that J doesn’t know. Passwords and payments and appointments and keepsakes and letters so many letters. 

And then I am sad. Because people shouldn’t think about things like that. Right? But I do. When I’m roaming and the acid starts to rise. 

And I roll over in the pitch black room and listen to his breathing. Unwrap his arms and make room for myself to crawl in. He mumbles but accepts. But he doesn’t know about my brain and what my stomach makes me think about. He doesn’t live in a world where he can’t speak to his mother and hear I love you. I love you. I love you. Over and over again. 

Where are you going? He asks as I stumble out of bed. 

My stomach is aching. I need to get up. I’ll be back after it settles down. 

The things I want to say to you: pt. 2

It’s starting to get colder here and I’ve been missing you terribly. It seems as though when every November rolls in and October leaves me, the slight aching in my heart returns and it beats in a rhythm of longing for you.

Did you know that dad remembers you each year? He doesn’t say anything or announce it. Every year for the past three years, with the exception of this one, he has requested having Jack come for a sleepover. His quiet way of acknowledging my love for you. For giving me the break, allowing me to be on my island, and just miss you. He didn’t this year. It didn’t work out, or maybe he figured I wouldn’t want to be away from the baby also. He did show up tonight, as he does on more Sundays than not, with tired eyes, because he needed to hug the boys. I watch him with them. He tries so hard to be a great grandfather to them. He’s doing a great job and so is T. You’d appreciate the love she gives to them, I think. 

Tonight I’m wondering what you think of them. Most of the time I can get past you not being here to see them and I’m not really 100% sure about the afterlife. It makes me really sad that you’ve missed everything. 

I’ve distanced myself away from people who failed me after you left. As I got older and started my family I figured that they weren’t there for me then so why should I give them the most awesome privilege of knowing my kids? My family dissentigrated to almost no one, but has grown so much since then. 

I wish you were here. The baby favors you. People say he looks like his daddy and I suppose in someways he does. But when I look at him I see you. He has your serious stern eyes and your forehead wrinkles. He has your big brown eyes. And you can’t see them. You can’t see how much his personality resembles what yours was.

So now I guess I want to tell you what you’ve missed. Not the big things, the important things. Kayla got your sense of humor. She’s the funniest teenager I’ve ever met. Her jokes are ridiculous and stupid and lovely, just like yours were. Chris is not a saint, like you thought he’d be, but he is special. He’s a good kid. And he will grow up to be a good man and a good father. Noah, sweet Noah, is the most caring kid I have ever met. He’s sweet and generous and will take care of Jenny for anything she needs as he gets older. Mattie is me. So much like me that it makes my heart ache for her sometimes. Sensitive. She’s going to care for so many people in her lifetime but with as sensitive as she is she’s ten times as strong. My Jack is the best. He is smart and artistic and he genuinely cares about people. But my proudest thing is that he is kind.

Your middle has achieved more this year than she has in the past 10. I feel like you already knew what she was capable of. But you’d be so proud if you saw her now. 

I don’t know about your oldest. I wish I did. I feel like every time I see him there are so many things unsaid, and deep sadness for how things are. I will fix this one day. Not today, but soon.

And me. I have a family, a big one, that loves me. I have everything I’ve ever wanted. I have everything that I need. I have a good man and two beautiful boys. But I’m still missing you. 

Happy Birthday Momma, wherever you are. Come visit me in my dreams. I’d like to hear your voice again. I’d like to lay with you and talk about how wonderful everyone is. 

I am missing you.

Time ticks down. 

I am her and she is me. We are different genetically but our hearts, they’re sewn from the same cloth. She comes to me when life has us both reveed up. We are screaming inside with the answers to our deepest fears. The ones we only dare whisper to each other. We talk the talks of childhood and beliefs. We dance around our questions, our insecurities, our life. We talk about the internal clock that powers both of our hearts. Always ticking down, down, down.Running out. 

We talk about the things we don’t dare to ask. We look at each other with knowing eyes. I am her and she is I. We know because we were there, together, holding hands and gluing the soles of our shoes back together. Our mother may have called us beautiful from time to time, but she called us strong more times than that. Our mother raised warriors, survivors, and beasts. 

We never spoke about the monsters of our childhood because monsters weren’t real, even if you did see them crawling across the floor, faceless, in the dark. And we were there, together, holding hands and tucking our feet deep under the covers while shutting our eyes tight. As we grew and the monsters became real and they would yell, close to our faces, with alcohol drenched breath, about how stupid we were, how much of a disappointment we had become. We were there, holding hands, caring for our mothers and whispering in the night about how we’d wish he’d just die. 

I am her and she is I. Older now. Raising warriors, survivers, and beasts. Moving on and forgiving the monsters of our dreams. There is an invisible string that sometimes calls one of us across town. We look into each other and understand the things that are unspoken and we are together, restarting the clocks in our hearts, standing up and choosing to believe our stories won’t end the way they do in our dreams. 

I am her and she is me. 

Ketchup on crackers and cycles

When things got real bad I remember looking in the fridge and trying to figure out what I was going to feed your brother and sister. I didn’t have any money for food. One night I fed them ketchup on crackers. Thankfully, there was a neighbor in our apartment building that knew what was going on and she would invite us over for dinner. She knew I was too proud to ask. She shared all she had. 

In my life I can not count the times I saw my mother go hungry. By the time I came into this world things were a bit better for her. Maybe because she was constantly working to support us, busting her ass day and night, just to keep food on the table.

The relationship my sister and I have with food stem from this. From watching her as we grew up. This relationship isn’t noticeable unless you’re looking for it. It’s serving yourself last and least. And watching your babies eat and eating very slowly yourself… Just watching and when they’re done but you can tell they still want more you announce I’m not feeling very hungry… Would you like the rest? Handing over your plate. I have watched my sister do this and I have seen myself do the same. Because we remember and we know what it’s like to go to bed hungry.

The universe, currently, has been handing us a series of fuck yous. We are saving for the new house, the dog got sick, and now my car decided to break down. I am finding it hard to stay positive. I have been throwing mini pity parties for myself on occasion. Always in private though. Another thing I learned from her.

I sat last night thinking about how something has got to give. Something has got to go right because there’s been too much wrong happening all at once, making me question whether or not we should even be trying for our forever home.

I woke up today to a text telling me a got a job I was hoping to get. There’s one good thing. But I can’t shake this feeling like I should be doing more. Working more. Providing more. Saving more.

Things have been tight before and we’ve always made it through. I feel like there is a mountain in front of me and I’m not sure if I should climb it or sit down and have a picnic.

I’m tired and I just want things to be simple again. My thankfulness is low and my anxiety is high. I need some time to regroup.

I need a break.

Memories- guns and mental health

August. 21 years old. I walk into the house from my shift driving a fork lift for a local laundry soap manufacturing plant.

Jo I hear from her bedroom in the back.

Yeah? Walking into her room I can tell she has been crying. I can tell it’s not been a good day. What’s up? 

I thought about killing myself today… but I didn’t want you to be the one to find me. 

I stand there looking at her sitting in bed. Not really sure what to say or where to go from here.

Well okay.  I say. Well how were you planning on doing that, Mom? 

I was going to shoot myself in the head. But I didn’t want you to have to clean up the mess.

Okay. Okay. Um… just give me a minute? Okay? 

Okay. She says.

I walk upstairs and sit down on my bed to call my brother. He answers first try.

I need you to deal with this. I’m saying. I’m not doing it this time. He’s asking me questions, giving me direction, he’s telling me how to handle the situation this time. He says he’s coming. Just give him time and he’ll be there. Okay. I say. Okay.

I returned to her room and she’s still sitting there looking up at me like this is all a completely normal thing. A regular exchange of words in a normal household.

Where’s the gun, Mom? 

I’m not telling you. She says.

Mom, you need to give me the gun. Then I can help you. But I can’t help you until you give it to me, okay? Where is it? 

She pulls the gun from under her pillow. She hands it to me.

Okay. Good. I say. Good. Donny’s coming. He’s going to take care of you. 

And he’s there now, in the doorway to her room. He’s there to take this from me.

Mom, I called the hospital. I have to take you there. You understand that i’m going to take you there right? 

I’m not going back there. She says. You can’t make me go. 

I’m going to take you or I’m going to have to call someone to come get you. Okay? 

Okay. She says, pulling her legs over the side of the bed. Jo, at least get me my makeup? Okay. 

Okay.


It’s late. I am 17 and there is a knock on my wall. I go to her room to see what the trouble is.

Shh… close the door now. Close it. Okay? I’m going to tell you something and I need you to listen? Do you hear me? You do as I say now, okay? 

Okay. Okay.

Take this gun. You’re going to sleep in here tonight. If you grandfather comes into this room tonight I want you to shoot him. Do you hear me? You aim for his chest and you shoot him. 

What is going on? What are you talking about? 

You listen to me. He has gone crazy and if you want to live you shoot him. 

Okay. Okay. 

____________________________________________________________________

17. Two nights later I am sitting on the top of the stairs. I can see him sitting with the gun next to him on the end table.

Jodi. I don’t want you to be scared of me. Do you hear me? Don’t be scared. 

Okay. I say. Okay. 

____________________________________________________________________

21. My mom is in the hospital under supervision. She’s doing group therapy and gets to call home.

Where’s my gun, Jo? 

It’s in a safe place Mom, Okay? 

It better be there when I get back, okay? 

Okay. I say. Okay. 

____________________________________________________________________

17. Driving home from school. My mother flags me down in the middle of the road.

Don’t go home. She says. We can’t go back there. Grandpa has kicked us out. He said you could get some things for school if you need to but I can’t go back there. 

Okay. Okay. 

____________________________________________________________________

21. My mother is home from the hospital. She is in my room. She is tearing through my things.

Where is it? Where did you put it, Jo? 

It’s not here. Donny took it. It’s being destroyed. 

I am so pissed. She storms off crying.

Well okay. I say. Okay. 

____________________________________________________________________

17. Two weeks before the night my mother handed me the gun. She is in the hospital for complications with her sickness. I receive a phone call. There is hurried speech on her end.

I need you to come get me. She says.

Are they releasing you? I can bring you clothes.

No, I need you to come get me now. Meet me by the road. The nurses are trying to kill me. 

Then click. The line goes dead.

Shit. Shit. Shit. I drive circles around the hospital. Half expecting her to be there smoking a cigarette, still hooked up to her I.V. cart. She isn’t anywhere on the roads or side walks. I park. Then run as fast as I can up to the hospital. I nearly have my arm jerked out of socket when a male nurse a recognize grabs me spinning me around.

You’re Kelly’s daughter!

Yes.

I need you to come with me. He says. He’s leading me and talking quickly and quietly.

Your mom. He starts, looking around to make sure no one’s listening. She’s not okay right now. She’s lost all of her eggs out of her basket. Do you understand? Do you know what I’m saying? She tried to break a window with a chair on the forth floor, but she wasn’t strong enough. So she hid in a broom closest. She’s saying crazy things about the nursing staff. Do you hear me? The police are with her now. 

THE POLICE?! Shit. Okay. I say. Okay. 

When I arrive to her room she’s sitting in a chair with her legs crossed. Two police men standing on each side of her. She is spitting her words at them. She is explaining to me, in her most hateful and bitter tone, how the nurses were indeed trying to kill her.

She is telling me this like it is a normal exchange of words, in a normal family.

Okay.  I say. Okay. 

She is admitted onto the 8th floor, psych ward. She is there when I get back two hours later with my sister and a good friend.

There’s a fire on my bed. She says. Don’t you just love camping? 

My friend laughs. She spins her head around shooting daggers out of her eyes.

What the fuck are you laughing at, boy? 

The nurses come in and we are asked to leave.

Okay. I say. Okay. 

———————

21. My mother has been on antidepressants for two months. She is up cleaning the house.

Jo, I need to talk to you. I’m sorry. I’m going to be okay now. It’s going to be okay. 

Okay. I say. Okay.

When I was a little girl I asked my mother what will I be…

Life happenings are beginning to stir in my little corner of the world. So many changes have occurred in the past two years bringing me further into adulthood. With summer here and me rapidly approaching my thirty first birthday I am reminded of my childhood and the things that I was taught to believe in. 

My mother had a gift from God, she said. A specialness about her. A way of knowing things before they would happen. She proved this right many times as I was growing up. Allowing me to pour more and more of my faith into her. Allowing her word to be the final one and one that I eventually learned not to question. As I reached my teenage years, after the mystical happenings of my childhood, I’d lay on her bed and ask her about my future. Basic things… Who I would marry, how many children I would have, if I’d be happy. 

In my teenage years of falling in and out of young love I’d ask her again and again- is he the one? Always to be answered with a sorry; not yet. 

I brought Jason home shortly after my nineteenth birthday. He was shaggy haired and bright eyed. I asked him to please understand before he entered the house… To please not judge, but that my mother wanted to meet him. And as I walked him through my box packed living room that contained no furniture but my bed and a tv on the floor back to my mother’s room where she was sitting waiting patiently in bed I sincerely hoped he’d understand. She asked him questions like she always did as him and I sat on the foot of her bed. After the brief interrogation we started for the living room only to have her whisper, calling me back, with a him. 

Now I did marry him and I did bare his children. Not the correct number or gender that I was told. 

Three babies; two boys, one girl. 

 I have carried four children. But am left with two living boys. 

After my miscarriage, my third baby, baby a… I sat on my sister’s porch and asked her if she thought that was it for me… Three children, my two boys- Jack and Ben- and now that third baby, in my mind a girl- our Alex. But now, a year since that loss I have healthy seven week old Will.  

There’s really not a logical point for that thought process. Just that I’ve been in thinking about it. 

We’re going to be moving again soon. Starting another chapter somewhere new. I wish my mom was here to share some more of her specialness.  

Que sera, sera… Whatever will be will be.

Memory

  
Yesterday marked the eighth  anniversary of my mother’s death. This year it was met with a school cancellation because of snow and because of this a less melancholy Momma. Spending the morning playing in the snow with Jack and was what my heart needed to feel full of love rather than longing. I thought about writing of the memory of her leaving us yesterday, but couldn’t bring myself to do that. So instead I’ve decided to make a list of all of the pieces of her I see in myself.

  • My undying love for Van Morrison, Billy Joel, and Elton John.
  • Dancing in my kitchen to music that’s way too loud; whether I am making dinner or doing the dishes.
  • Cuddling my boy. I’m not the typically the parent who plays… But I will cuddle the crap out of you and watch as many shows as your little heart desires.
  • Waking up= pulling those curtains open wide! Let that sunshine in! 
  • Slow wake ups. Yelling is not meant for the morning.
  • Christmas insanity that normally starts before Thanksgiving.
  • Unconditional love and support for my children.
  • Hot headed anger and irritation that can happen in the split of a moment. “Now don’t make me cuss, damnit!” 
  • Not wanting to repeat myself. “What did I say? So… I what does that mean then?”
  • Running away from my problems. (Literally the biggest, most disappointing quality to receive from her.) 
  • Getting way too excited and emotional about life. 

I’m sure there are way more that I am not thinking of currently… But there’s my list. Sometimes I hope Jack remembers me in the crazy fantastic way that I remember her. Hopefully it’ll be a long time before I become a memory. 

Memory.

There’s a knock on the wall. I sleepily go to get up to check on her. But suddenly, she’s in my room… Beaming the biggest smile I’ve seen on her face in a while.

Wake up, Jo! Wake up! She whispers, excitedly.

I sigh. Tonight must be a good night. These don’t come very often. Her energy is flying through her. She is bouncing off of the walls.

Get up. Put a coat and shoes on… don’t worry about changing your clothes. Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go. 

Where are we going? Are you moving again? She hasn’t told me to start packing. I get out of bed, slip my shoes on, and grab my coat off of the chair. We are living at my grandmother’s house. I am 17 and we are here so that my grandma can help me take care of my mom. Because my mom says I “needed a break.”

Shh. She says Don’t want to wake the dragon. As we are creeping down the stairs. Past the couch, where my grandmother lays sleeping.

Go now. Go. Outside? Where too? Do I need my keys?

Don’t act like you haven’t snuck out before. Don’t make a noise opening the door. Now go. 

I usually just go out the back. She is rolling her eyes at me.

I open the front door, with as little as a squeak and the cold air hits me full force in the face. Not uncomfortably cold, but the temperature has dropped. And I see it. I know now why we’re awake, and outside, at 2 in the morning. It’s snowing. She knows it’s my favorite.

It’s snowing Jo! It’s snowing for you! She grabs my hand and we stand in the yard together, just looking at all of the yards and houses all covered in white. No one is out now, but us. The whole neighborhood is quiet. Normally dirty, and run down looking… Now looks new.

Isn’t it beautiful? She whispers. Everything is brand new and magical. Anything can happen during the first snow. 

My mother doesn’t have anything to give me. I know she feels bad most of the time because of it. She is sad that all of my clothes come from the thrift store, sad because we never went on a family vacation, sad because she got sick when I was nine and since then I have been raising myself. She says these things to me when she’s feeling down. She says I’m sorry I can’t do your laundry. I’m sorry you don’t get new jeans. I’m sorry I am sick. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. 

My mother doesn’t know that she has given me everything. It’s just been her and I from the time I turned 14. My brother and sister moving out on the first chance that they got. I got her. In a different way than they did. I got her stories and memories and to be her friend. I got her waking me up to tell me something she wanted me to know that she wanted for her funeral. I got her childhood, her adulthood, her love life, her dreams, and her hopes for us. She gave me all of that…

and… she gave me the snow.

The things I want to say to you- A letter to my Mom

I don’t talk to you like I used to. I don’t reach out anymore for signs or some form of connection. At this point, I’m not really sure I know how anymore. If you were here… I honestly don’t know where I would start. I hate to say it but when you left it was both a relief and a never ending bitter longing that I never thought I would overcome. I think for the most part I’m just really angry right now. Not necessarily at you, because I know that everything that happened was out of your control, but more so at the universe. Life is hard. I wish that you would have told me that. And maybe you tried. Or maybe you thought you didn’t have to since we lived the life we lived. I wish I could have gotten a heads up on some of this, instead of the little bits you gave me… the parts that were surrounded by hearts and flowers.

I wish that I would have gotten more time to be a “normal” family. I wish you would have been there for me in those times that I really needed you. I feel like I am told all of the time that I am wise beyond my years because of how fast I had to grow up. But i feel like people give me more credit than I deserve sometimes, because honestly, most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing.

I feel like I’m at a crossroads in my life. And normally in times like this I choose to run right or left. Way out of center. Towards something huge. I just take off without thinking. And right now I’m tired, and I’m sick of running, and I’m sick of reaching goals and working so hard. Right now, just standing here. And I know I’m just going to walk forward. I’m going to stay on this path. But I’m ready for time to slow down.

Why didn’t you tell me about my babies? You told me about everything else. Why didn’t you tell me about how things would end up?

I get that Mothers try to protect their children by omitting information for their own well being… but why tell me anything at all then? Why include numbers and specific information?

J asked me to read her the other day… with your cards. And sitting on her front porch I said I couldn’t. I’m tired. And I’m sick of knowing and not knowing. And finding shit out. Right now, I don’t want to know anything. I want my head to stop hurting and I want support. Instead, I find myself mostly being a bitch. Shutting down. I feel bad for my family. There is no outlet for this. No answer, so to speak. And maybe if you were here you would be able to offer me what I need. Quiet, unconditional, quiet. Jason knows when he walks in if I’m having a good day or bad. And most of the time he retreats as too not have my toxic moodiness, spew all over him. And I can’t blame him. I wouldn’t know what to do with me either. But you would. Because it’s at times like these that I see the most of you in me. When I’m tired and I need quiet and I need people to leave me alone so I can let the quiet sort things out in my head. I walk the house, read my books, drink my coffee, and disappear. Nothing gets done. And I look in the mirror and I see you. I see you when Jack looks at me asking me, begging me, to play… and I just want quiet. I just want to sit in my chair, drink my coffee, and do nothing.

You were so good to us. Just like there are times that I am so good to him. But i think i carry the negative with the positive that came with you… and it overflows. This is not my grief cup spilling over. This is me being angry at you for being gone so long.

I like to think that if you could have you would have been here. I like to think that if you hadn’t gotten so sick you would have stuck around and spoiled all of these babies. You would have attended all of the concerts and award ceremonies for these fantastic kids that I go to, because they have no one else, other than their own Momma to attend. I would like to think that you would have woo-hoo’d your ass off when I graduated last Spring. And you would have held my hand when i put my baby in the ground. You would have been there when I was lost. And you would have helped me put my pieces back together.

I hope you see the things I try to do, that you always did, for us. I hope you see my Christmas tree up in the beginning of December. The notes to Santa and the cookies. I hope you see the unconditional love your children pour out onto their kids. I hope you see how we try to keep it together and try not to get angry with each other, even when one of us is being a word class jerk. I hope you see how we try to make our marriages work, even when it’s really, really hard. And I hope you see us, every year in January, just missing the shit out of you.

I hope you have found the love you deserved up there. And hope you’re enjoying baby B and A… but I refuse to send you anymore of my children. So hands off, okay? I hoped you’re rollerskating, like J dreamed. And I hope you can watch as the kids are growing up into the most awesome young people that I know. I hope you can hear every time I share bits of your life with Jack, even though he has no idea who you are.

We all miss you. We’re pretty pissed about it, actually. If you can work some of your magic, try to make sure no more shit gets fucked up here, K?

Love and Miss you Momma,

Jo