The fourth year

Chocolate chips vastly improve most things

I’m bringing Mrs. Coverlet’s famous chocolate chip bread pudding in to the office this morning. It’s a recipe from a holiday book my mom gave me when I was little that I loved to pieces and read multiple times each Christmas for years. She and I may have only made the bread pudding once, maybe twice, but it’s one of my favorite memories of her. Also, it’s delicious.

I got to Chicago three weeks before Nov. 11, 2010, the third anniversary of my mom’s death. I’d only known Christina for about two of those weeks, but she had the day off and she took me on a wildly awesome day of fun to keep my mind off things. I will never forget it; it meant the world to me to have, among strangers in a strange city, an understanding friend on a rotten day in my personal history.

Today, a year later, is the fourth anniversary. It’s weird to call it an anniversary at all, since that word is supposed to have such positive connotations. I have been thinking about her a lot lately, and especially this week. It’s really kind of hitting me that my life, and nearly everything about it and in it, is totally separate from her now. When she died, I was going to school at the college where she worked. I wanted to move to New York City and work for a major daily. I wasn’t with Brandon anymore, although we did get back together shortly after her passing. I had close ties to home and my college town and knew nothing of the life I was about to begin in Columbus.

Now, I’m here in Chicago, working for an internet company of national interest, and the people I talk to every day have never met my mom. I knew it was always going to bother me that almost certainly whoever I ended up marrying would never have met her, and, even more painfully perhaps, she’d never meet my kids. But this week it’s upsetting to me that I won’t ever have the chance to get to know her better.

I was 21 when she died. In the months before she was diagnosed, I’m sure we had plenty of petty arguments about inane things, because I was still very much an immature, arrogant college student, and she was just my mom. We never really graduated from a child/adult relationship. I didn’t see that until recently, now that I can tell that my dad and I have moved more toward an adult/adult relationship. I’m never going to have that with my mom, and that’s hurting a lot this week.

I wish I could ask her for advice in my relationships and friendships; I wish she’d be around to tell me not to freak out about whatever I’ll inevitably freak out about with my first kid. She won’t be there for my wedding, and I won’t be able to ignore that absence. These are the things that are occurring to me now, four years out from her passing. With each year that passes that she’s gone, I’m gaining a different perspective on this loss, for better or worse.

But while I’ve been feeling sorry for myself all week, what I’ve come to decide is, thank God for my dad. He can at least talk to me about my mom, and tell what he remembers about their shared experiences, from which he has three decades to draw. Maybe he won’t be able to remember everything, but he is by far the definitive guide to, and expert on, who my mom was. I’m so glad he’s around and here for me and my brother, for when we do wonder what she was like as a person, and not as our mother.

This is the first time I’ve had to work on This Day, since This Day coincides with Veterans’ Day, so that’s going to be strange. But I think I’m going to get enough done to be able to leave at least a little early. Then I’ll head home to Christina, where we can raise a glass for those who knew us better than we knew them.

Here’s to them.

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