It’s been so long. How many years has it been? God, eleven full years.
Can I say honestly that I have a hard time remembering you? Not just because it’s been so long but because the memories I have of you, however vague, are bifurcated into two distinct periods: the ones before you met C and the ones after. That makes it harder to remember you, because in my mind, you are almost two distinct people. The caregiver you were before: the time I biffed on my bike trying to ride a ramp from the street to the sidewalk, me sitting on the countertop as you peroxided my knee and the soft feel of the wind from your lips as you blew it dry, me watching adoringly as you band-aided it and finished the treatment with a light kiss. The time I came home sick and you thought I might be faking but then I sicked up the buttered toast you had just fed me, threw it up all over the couch and carpet and you had no choice but to accept that I had the flu.
Before, I remember you as present. That’s the word I most think of. On the sidelines at the soccer games. In the kitchen making dinner when I would return home after school. Goodnight rituals. You were always there.
And then there was after C. Where the person you were faded. Sure, your body was still there, the outline of you. But inside, you were shrinking and disappearing. He sucked the life out of you. Or maybe he just required more attention than me, and you thought I was ready to be on my own, to handle the inherent and terrifying instability of my teenage years alone. I wasn’t, mom. I wasn’t ready.
I remember the times when I yelled at you almost as much as he did. I yelled at you to stop picking fights with him because I didn’t understand why you would so obviously push his buttons and put me and my brother and the relative peace of our everyday household at risk. I remember standing in the hallway looking around at the latest wreckage, after he had stormed out the door and the roar of his engine had faded into the distance: here a hole in the wall, there an antique smashed into pieces on the ground; and I would yell at you to leave him. There’s no need to live this way, I would yell. In fact, this isn’t life at all. It’s a caricature, a dull replica, like the life of a prisoner. I would yell.
I suppose I understand now why you didn’t leave him. Because the idea of being alone is scary, and not just scary but scary in an unfamiliar way, and you decided to choose the more familiar fear. Because we addict ourselves to the drama, to the combined rush of anger and frustration. Because we are codependent and need someone to fix, someone to redeem.
Isn’t that why you loved the story of Jesus? The ultimate codependent, sent to take on the entire sins of the entire world, to bear everyone’s burden but his own. Take this burden from me, he prayed once, but how did he end it? Not my will, but thy will be done.
I don’t know if that’s true. I’m just guessing. I would’ve left him a long time ago, but that’s me. That’s not you. And it’s all over now.
I wish you were still here, of course. My kids don’t have enough grandparents. I don’t have enough parents. It’s never good when you lose someone in your life that loves you unconditionally, because that number is so small to begin with. There’s days where I just want to cry to someone who will listen to my sobs without judgment, with only empathy. Not really crying for any reason, just crying because sometimes you need a fucking good cry, sometimes it’s cathartic and soothing. But to have you holding me at the same time, whispering to me that it’s going to be okay – not giving any evidence to that fact, just stolidly and doggedly repeating it again and again – that would complete the picture.
That would make me feel better.