You never really ‘get over it’ . Sure, I function everyday, I have a happy life and sometimes go days without thinking about it, but still, twenty-seven years later and the few disconnected memories are still enough to make my insides ache, and my arms go weak and watery.
As a young child I heard people say ‘Children are resilient, they will get over it’ and so that’s how I knew what I was meant to do. I became an expert at being resilient. I remember saying only a few years after her death, ‘It’s ok, I’m over it. It doesn’t bother me any more’. I was such an expert that I believed it myself for years and years. Only, I should have known I was a liar. In high school, I took an assumed surname so that no one would work out that my family was different because then I’d have to talk about it. I didn’t want the new name. I wanted to be myself.
My great pretension has been breaking down slowly over the last five years or so. It’s probably because I have a daughter of my own. When I think of her I think of myself at her age. I now know that what I’ve always said is OK, would never be OK. I now know for sure that losing your mother is the worst thing imaginable for a young child. It strikes fear into me, that the same thing might happen to her. I now know that she would survive, yes. She might even be happy when she grows up, but she would never ever get over it. Oh, God forbid that she would ever face this. She’s just too young. So fragile and just like me. I know she would become a great pretender too. I see her sometimes do it over the little things.
When I think of my little sons, I think of my brother. They are so little and although my oldest boy pretends to be a big brave tiger and he roars and is strong, he’s still so little on the inside. Little boys are already learning to be brave and strong, but little boys are children. My brother didn’t pretend as much as me I think. People always used to say in those hushed grown up tones that children aren’t supposed to hear ‘it hit him harder because he is older’. Bull shit. It hit him hard because he was a little boy. He needed his mother. It hit us both hard.
When I think of myself I think of my mother. I am in many ways so much like my mother. Perhaps more like her than I’d like. Sometimes I feel like my life has hurtled ever faster towards becoming just like her. People always said I laugh like her, look like her, remind them of her. I love travel just like her, I am a nurse just like her. I moved a long way from home just like her and now I have young children just like her. Now I pray that I get to live the life she didn’t get to live. I pray that my genes are not just like hers. Well, one in particular. The rest I’ll take gladly.