Yesterday was a tough day for me as it was the 14th anniversary of my Mom’s passing. For the first time in years, I actually allowed myself to grieve a little, but what ended up coming out of the entire day was how crappy my memory really is. I mean, my life in my head is like a series of snapshots, some of them with no context or story, just a picture in my head. Like I remember certain outfits my Mom wore, but I couldn’t tell you where she wore them. I have trouble not just remembering her, it really is my entire childhood that is like that.
It doesn’t help that I have been so far away from my ‘family’ that I am not surrounded by anyone who remembers my younger days. Part of maintaining memories is the act of sharing them, and I discovered yesterday just how much I have either willfully forgotten, or things that just aren’t there anymore. I asked my friends to share some memories of my Mom with me yesterday, and the responses made me happy and I realized just how much I have forgotten.
One of the things I regret is not having any kind of memorial service for my Mom. I honestly can’t remember why we decided not to have one, but 14 years later it would have been nice to maybe watch a video or something of people remembering her. Or having words that I could hold on to in those moments where I get sad and want to remember her but can’t.
I don’t remember a lot of what happened while my Mom was sick or of the two or three years immediately after her passing. It’s like I lived in some sort of daze and it’s like those years aren’t even there. It doesn’t help either that there aren’t many people left who knew my Mom and with each passing year she seems to get farther and farther away – and that was a little overwhelming to realize.
One positive thing that came from my moments of grief was some laughter because my Mom really was funny, and a friend of mine reminded me of a time at Disneyland with my Mom that I had forgotten. Well, I had forgotten most of it – and remembered parts of it but hearing it from her and having that memory rekindled in my mind allowed me to actually remember her in context and I even got a picture of her in my head. It reminds me of the scene in “Saving Private Ryan” where Matt Damon is trying to remember his brothers and he is troubled because he can’t remember their faces. Tom Hanks tells him to remember them in context – in a story and once he does that, the faces become clear and he was able to remember them the way he wanted to. My friend gave me that story I so desperately needed yesterday and I am pretty sure I will never forget that moment again.
I think part of my memory problems with things that concern my Mom is that from the time she got sick until yesterday, I have been running from grief. I mean I have cried a lot missing her in the last 14 years, but I don’t think I have ever really properly grieved her death. After she died, is when I really started to drown my entire life in beer, I went into the Active Duty Army and I rarely looked back. Quitting drinking so much has been an adventure in memories really, because now when I look back on my life it is with a sober head and I find that much of my missing time is because I was too drunk to remember – or got so drunk that I wouldn’t remember.
The urge to drink myself into oblivion yesterday was too much to resist. At least I am a cheap date now, a couple shots of tequila and a beer was all it took for me to take a nice pass out nap on the floor. Yes. Tequila either makes me naked – or asleep on the floor. It did however somehow give me the permission; no, not permission but the excuse I needed to cry. I cried a lot yesterday. I think I cried more yesterday than I have in the entire 14 years she has been gone.
Grief is a weird thing, and memory is I think one of the keys to understanding it. In order to grieve, I have to remember. I think I am finally ready to do that now. My therapist will be thrilled.