I don't know why I started this post that way. I really just wanted to say that sometimes things here are still really freaking hard. Hard in ways I didn't expect - I really miss the jokey, sweet relationship that my nephew and I had before I became the one he has to check with to see if he can run to Dunkin Donuts with his friends after school. Before I became the one who puts corn on his plate and expects him to eat it.
Before I became the woman-shaped-person who's taking up space next to the giant gaping hole his mother left behind.
Do you ever write other people's stories in your head and try to figure out how they'd sound? Especially ones that include you? I've been doing that a lot lately, trying to look forward and backwards at the same time for the kids so suddenly in my charge. Trying to use our experiences as predictors for theirs, when I know that won't work, but I don't have any other grand ideas. Trying to see into the future and prevent their damaged hearts from being crushed, as if by magic.
I wonder, sometimes, what role they've casted me in, or will cast me in, in their eventual memories.
Is that a normal thing to wonder? I don't even know.
But I can't help it: sometimes snippets of things pop into my head and I wonder: Is that the truth of how they see me now? Is that the story playing in their head?
Recently, I had this moment of - I don't know - disconnect and not deja vu but an equally awkward "how is this my real life?" kind of feeling that left me off balance. And when my niece and her cousin walked in at half past eight, tumbling in all loudness and loopy from their grandparents' house down the road, I had this piece of narration that just popped into my head, as if I were seeing the scene from the outside.
"We were a few minutes late, and I could tell by the look on Auntie's face that she had noticed. She always noticed things like that, especially when you hoped she wouldn't. She was a constant looming presence now, with Mum gone, and seeing her there - usually spread across the couch with her laptop at a right angle, or twisted up as best she could to squeeze into our one, lone armchair: three pillows, a heating pad and the laptop's glow on her face - gave me the jolt every time I walked through the door. It wasn't her fault, really, but she wouldn't have been camped out at our house otherwise, and we all knew it. If Mum were around, she'd be back at Grammy's and our twice monthly sleepovers would still be something to look forward to, a nice change of pace where we played games all day and ate tacos. But here she was, and here Mum wasn't, and just like a switch, I remembered it all over again."
I realize the scene itself isn't particularly charitable to me - although I don't feel it's unjustly harsh either - it's just that sometimes I can see it on their faces, the re-realization, and I h a t e being the impetus for that, the thing that highlights their loss all over again.
I'm having a rough couple of days here - It's not just me: there's a lot going on in our family that's good and bad and horrible and up-heaving and life-altering. And I feel a little lost, sitting here on this couch, with my charges in bed - one of them upset with me because I'm making him do chores, the other listening to her TV because she finds the quiet unnerving, even all these months later. My brother, snoring away upstairs as he's been since right after supper, and he'll probably be awake at three in the morning, and off to work, and another day will start all over again.
And I wish that the end of the day felt like I'd accomplished something more than surviving. I wish that I was able to make them happier, or healing, or at least not argue with them about stupid shit that neither of us really cares about except Oh My God Why Do You Have To Act Like A Teenager Right Now??? Could You Not Be Jerk To Me For 10 Minutes, Please???
And the thing is, my nephew is a sweetheart, and I KNOW that. And most of the time, he continues to be that - he's a good kid, with a good heart, and he's doing so great and trying so hard. And neither of us really understands my role here or our new boundaries and ... it's fucking hard. It's hard for me, and I'm a grown-up woman, who lost her sister-in-law and misses her, but who won't ever understand what it's like to be 14 and have your mom taken away from you so brutally.
I know he doesn't blame me, but he kind of also does.
Because I moved in when she got sicker, and she just never got better, and I just never left, and I'm the one who told him it was never going to get better, and I'm the one who made him understand that that was her last day and he'd regret it if he didn't say goodbye, and I'm the one who's STILL HERE and his mom is NOT. And sure, he's 14 and he's smart enough to know (in his brain) that that doesn't make sense, that I wasn't a cause for that effect, but I also know it doesn't feel wrong, because sometimes he looks at me like he hates me, and it breaks every little piece of my heart.
And I can't show it, because I know that grief doesn't make sense, and I know that he doesn't like feeling it any more than I like seeing it, but, god, what I'd give to go back to a time when looking at me didn't hurt him.
I know he loves me, and I hope - with all my heart - that this is one of those things that time can fix - because I've loved this boy with my whole heart since the day he was born, and yes: I'm the one who told him his mom was gone, but I'm also the one who snuggled with him through every nap-time and sick day; the one who taught him about the joy of pretzels dipped in fluff; the one who showed him the miracle of bubbles; Who gave him sink baths and solar systems and learned the name of every maritime disaster in the last 100 years; the one he used to call when his parents were fighting and he was frightened.
I know, eventually, he'll remember those things too, but right now, on a night when he looks at me and sees all that he's missing, what I wouldn't give to trade places with his mum, to let him have her back, to let her fight with him over the damned trash.
Well, now that I've bawled my way through that... I gotta go turn on the dishwasher, and lock us all up safe for the night. Hope whoever is reading, wherever you are, that you're safe and sound tonight too.