It’s been 25 year since my Mom passed away, a quarter of a century. It’s been such a long time that I almost can’t make sense of it intellectually: in the context of my life, she was alive for less time than she’s been gone. Bizarre. This is true for many people including some of you reading this who have lost one or both of your parents. If that’s the case, I understand. I get the feelings of loss, displacement, of feeling unmoored. I like the idea of writing letters because a) it’s a lost art form and b) it’s a way for me to process my grief. I don’t have her to write me notes or cards anymore (something she was amazing at, with the most perfect handwriting), but I can write them for myself. And for my girls too.
I’m going to make mistakes, in fact, I’ve already made a bunch. The thing about being a parent is that no one tells you what to do or how to do it well. No one tells you that it’s going to be the hardest job of your life. No one really prepares you for the complexities of it, the intensity, the triggers, the grief that is awakened when you hit certain milestones. For me, this is a moment now that you’re 9. I’m sure that when your sister turns 9, I’ll have similar moments. Nine was a really painful year for me, lots of difficult and upsetting things happened. It was 1986 and things were crazy in Vancouver, Expo 86 was on and it was as if the entire world had arrived at our little doorstep. We had a lot of out-of-town visitors that year, friends from the East, and that was fun. But the rest of that year was genuinely terrible.
I’m having a lot of flashbacks to being 9 now that I see you – beautiful, full of questions, silly, nerdy, wearing your I Love Math t-shirt proudly and wanting to ride horses. I see you in your lankiness wondering about things you see and hear, asking good questions, bothering your sister and being bothered by her. All hallmarks of a happy childhood. I’m encouraged by these things and saddened that I don’t remember having any of that myself. Maybe I did. I honestly have no memory of it. I remember a lot of really difficult stuff from that time, a lot of tears and fear. A lot of yelling and my parents drinking. A lot of fights. A near death experience in a car. A lot of wishing I was somewhere else, anywhere else but at home.
It’s hard to describe what parenting you means to me, it’s full of difficult emotions to process. I have a lot of unpacking of these emotions left to do, to find compassion for my parents and myself. For their mistakes and mine. It’s not an easy undertaking, but I’ll do it because I know that the road that’s difficult is the right one. Remember that ok? If it’s easy, it’s probably not worth it. Hard work, especially on yourself, is almost always the best way. I say almost always because who knows what’s right for you? Only you will know.