That’s how many years it’s been since my mother died, today. It’s an unfathomable number that I don’t expect will get easier to understand as the years pass. I thought today of the morning she died. That first day is the worst—to wake up with her in the world, and to go to sleep and she’s gone. The day after that was the next most difficult: the first full day in a world without her.
I remember everything about her. I remember the scar from the grease burn on her left arm that she said she got when she was working at McDonald’s at sixteen. I remember the way her breath smelled; I catch the smell here and there from time to time and can’t describe it but can always remember. I remember how the back of her head looked. I remember her toenails and the shape of her belly and the two rosy spots on her cheeks. I remember that even though she preferred comfort over fashion in her 40s, her outfits always matched perfectly. I remember the sound of her laugh, and the different tones it took depending on how hard she was laughing. I remember the way her nostrils flared in time with her laughter and the “ksskssksss” sound she would make when she was laughing so hard she couldn’t catch her breath.
It has been impossible for me to convince myself that she isn’t still “out there somewhere.” I know the reason for this is that she missed my adolescence because she was in Europe for its entirety. My muscle memory still operates as though if I haven’t seen her in a while, it just means that she is elsewhere in the world. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully convince myself that she isn’t just hiding out somewhere and I just need to know where to look.
There was a meme going around Twitter today that said “Introduce yourself with the thing that almost killed you.” Most of the responses are what one might expect. “I’m Jason, and this is a Mack truck.” “I’m Serena, and this is a blood disorder.” Well, I’m Rosie, and this is my grief. PTSD has altered my personality and I don’t remember what I was like before she died. Nine years on and I can still sit for hours in my car, unable to move, unsure where to go or what I used to do with my free time aside from survive to the next day.
For all that she was and wasn’t, she was my mom. My mama. I would give anything to be able to hug her again, to tell her I love her and to hear the sound of her voice. I miss you every day, you magnificent human.