Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Thawin' Out



Hiya queerdos!


I’ve missed you! And been away so long!


Y’all, my mom died on December 8th.



I don’t know how to write about it, which is why I haven’t.


I was in Arizona for over a month, and by the end of my mom being on life support after brain surgery, it was clear she wasn’t going to get any better. She was “locked in”—meaning she was totally paralyzed but also able to hear us and respond (sometimes, but reliably) by blinking.


We visited every day and talked to her and held her hand. Several weeks in, we started asking her if she wanted us to take her off life support. We asked lots of different times. She always said yes.


A month in, as a family, we decided to remove her from life support and place her in hospice care. (Hospice care, in my mom’s case, meant “a place you go to die as comfortably as possible.”)


My dad told her about the decision, and visited with her for awhile.

She died right after he left.




Apparently, (according to her neurosurgeon and nurses) it’s very common for someone to die immediately after being told they’re being taken off life support—it’s as if they were just waiting to be sure their family was ready for them to stop fighting.


In the end, I got to talk to her and say all the things I needed to say to her, and she heard me, and I am so grateful.


If you haven’t gone through something like this, let me just say: It is so, so weird to lose your mom. Even if you don’t see each other very often; even if you have a strained or bad or unconventional relationship; even if, when you do see each other or talk on the phone, she alternates between driving you absolutely batshit and guilt-tripping you and making you laugh and making you furious.


I think I just always assumed she’d be around, driving me nuts, forever. She’s my mom. She had always been there, and when I lost her I felt a kind of wild grief, an inconsolable, orphaned-baby-animal-lost-in-the-woods grief, a panic that made no logical sense.

I’m an adult, I can take care of myself; I no longer need my mother but I need my mother, and I didn’t even know that I did.




And now she’s gone.


My aunt—my mom’s only sibling—was with us for the month; she stayed with my Nana, who also lives in Phoenix. My sister was with me the whole time, and we stayed with our dad in his little pink stucco house. I don’t know what I would have done without her there.


I’ve been dating the cutest and sweetest transguy, Davin, for a while now, and he was in the middle of a work trip in Miami, and he dropped everything and flew in the day after my mom died. I cannot tell you how soothing it was to this homosexuelle to sob against some well-worn-flannel-clad shoulders in a dark room and be handed fresh tissues and cold cans of fizzy water to press against my face.

I’d try to stop crying and clean up my snot and he’d be like, “Keep crying, wipe it on me, let it out,” and good god did he have laundry to do after a few days and nights of that.


At one point, I was just so grateful he was there and not trying to cheer me up and not making this somehow about him (some of my exes have...struggled with this in the past, my god) and not trying to do anything but just be there and listen while I soaked through every last one of his t-shirts that I joked though my tears that I wouldn’t want to have my mom die around anyone else, but I meant it.


One of my best friends, Kelly, called me from Seattle and said, “Krissie. I’m flying down. Don’t try and stop me.”

“You don’t need to come,” I said.

“Shut up. I’ll be there tomorrow. What’s the closest hotel to your house?”


Kelly arrived and I don’t even know how to begin to tell her how much it meant to me that she came. She is so socially graceful and hilarious and she swooped around introducing everyone and taking family pictures and just generally being the person our incredibly quiet and reserved family needed. She’s known my mom since she was 7 years old.




When the wake before the funeral happened (open casket omg WHY), my whole family came. We arranged our chairs in a circle and told stories about my mom. I reconnected with my cousins (who I hadn’t seen in twenty years) and also discovered I have a glamorous great-aunt I’d never met who wears pink lipstick and wafts a cloud of Estée Lauder’s Azurée wherever she goes.  


I also discovered that one of my cousins (my whole family is intensely Mormon) had adopted a kid and that he came out as trans, and she just...went ahead and loved him. Exactly as he was. And helped him transition.


This also made me cry.


Basically I was a trickling decorative desktop water fountain for the month between the time my mom had surgery and the time that she died, then a waterfall during the time surrounding her funeral, and then I was back to being a (strangely malfunctioning) trickling decorative desktop water fountain for all the months afterward up until now.


It was as if I would short-circuit sporadically, and I’d start crying without warning in odd or really inappropriate places. Four people at an event could ask me how I was, and I’d be fine, and then the fifth person could ask me and I’d burst into tears and terrify them.




I cried at a gas station when I saw a mom lightly run her hand down the back of her daughter’s head in the candy bar section.


I went thrifting, saw a posh camel-hair blazer my mom would have loved, and threw it in my cart, thinking I’d mail it to her. Then I remembered I could never mail her anything ever again, and I started crying. Hard. (Note: do you know where it’s super depressing to start crying? A large thrift store with fluorescent lights at 11 a.m. on Senior Day.)


I cried just last week when I was painting my toes in my bathroom and fucking Pandora betrayed me and played Simon and Garfunkel out of nowhere.


Thumbs DOWN, Pandora, for at least a year, how dare you.


I can’t control my grief, and it’s something that startles me every time. It just pops up. My therapist says this is normal, and you just gotta roll with it, but it’s still something that takes me by surprise—here it is, an emotion I cannot, after three decades of practice with social mores, downplay in public places and deal with later.


So now I carry tissues in my bag like a grandma. I also got my eyelashes dyed so I can 1) be fabulous and 2) cry whenever Surprise Grief happens without wondering juuuust how much my mascara is running.


And for the most part, it’s OK. I’m all right, and my family is all right, and my dad is starting to be all right, and my sister and I go for breakfast and hang out and we’re starting to feel normal again. I’m working on a book—a book! me! a book!—and going on fun dates and taking a writing class and working my remote day job and basically trying to move on.


And maybe one day it’ll stop snowing in Minneapolis!


[via zeewipark]

And on that day, we’ll all go outside again and feel the sun on our faces and think what a strange and startling thing it is to be alive, on this soft green planet, for this little short time, while we’re all together.

12 comments:

  1. Grief is unyielding and surprising. I lost my dad 20 years ago, and reading this brought on a flood of emotions, and tears, like it had just happened yesterday.
    And I embrace that.
    I am happy that the feelings toward him and losing him still exist and haven't been replaced.
    My heart is with you.

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  2. This is exactly right:
    "I think I just always assumed she’d be around, driving me nuts, forever. She’s my mom. She had always been there, and when I lost her I felt a kind of wild grief, an inconsolable, orphaned-baby-animal-lost-in-the-woods grief, a panic that made no logical sense.

    I’m an adult, I can take care of myself; I no longer need my mother but I need my mother, and I didn’t even know that I did."

    I lost my mother five and a half years ago. The grief gets more bearable, I can report. My heart goes out to you.

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  3. Welcome back, love. I think you did her passing justice with this piece. I'm glad you're still trucking through and major congratulations on the new relationship. He sounds like a peach. xo

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  4. Sending love your way.
    ~ Amy, Vancouver, Canada

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  5. I've been following your blog for years, since I was the babyest of gheys, and I just needed to tell you that I love you. I love you and I am thinking of you and your family during this sad transition, and I am so glad you have people to talk to, who will hug you and make you food and let you grieve all over their flannel.
    Your mom looks/sounds like the coolest lady, and I am very glad you both had/have each other.
    All my thoughts and love to you, Krista. <3

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  6. Thank you for being so candid. This resonated with me so very much. I lost my own mother after a brief illness and I remember not being able to fathom the empty space that would be in my life. I knew I would miss her but couldn't understand what that would mean after a lifetime of having her. What I learned was, the only way out of the aftermath of grief was through it. The crying jags on the subway, in random grocery aisles, when I still had the impulse to call. All tears, most of them painful, and all very necessary. Sending you love from the interwebs.

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  7. A prolonged, heartfelt web-hug to you, my dear. I am so very sorry.

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