You would think 2.5 years would be enough time. Enough time to re-connect, enough time to heal, enough time to memorize, enough time to prepare. Turns out 2,025 years wouldn't have been enough time. Pre-grief is not a thing.
It's high tide in my mind, and there are so many childhood memories crashing back in. Driving. We sang along to Give Me One Reason by Tracy Chapman. You let me hold the steering wheel from the passenger seat while you prepared your next handful of sunflower seeds. Shopping. We took trips to the coast every summer and you bought us clothes for the new school year. You sat in the dressing room and re-hung items for me while I moved onto the next option. Mornings. We were in your bedroom where the smell of coffee drifted upstairs to meet us. You tried on 10 outfits at a time and called yourself fat.
I can't see your face, mom. I can see your legs in the drivers seat, separated by a paper cup filled with spit-covered shells. I can see your hands on the hangers and your purse on the floor. I can see your stomach suffocating at the mercy of your pantyhose. But I can't see your face, so I rely on pictures for that. I cut and paste you in according to whatever decade it was and whatever hairstyle you had. There's a picture of you in the bathroom getting ready. I use that one when I try to remember how you stretched your jaw long to apply mascara.
When you were sick, I never knew what to say. So I focused on actions. Clean your fridge, hold your hand, fold your towels, pay your bill. I baked you a German chocolate cake when you surpassed the 2 year life-expectancy prognosis. You blew out my make-shift match candles, squeezed me tight, and told me to never leave you again. I ate what I wanted to say along with half a cake I wasn't hungry for. I took a picture of that moment and I use it to imagine your face.
In one of our last conversations, you told me I wasn't the daughter you wanted and admitted you weren't the mother I wanted. It was more lament than insult, but it still presses into me like a dull knife. You said it like there weren't 47 more days left to do something about it. For the record, you were exactly the mother I wanted. You were exactly the person whose acceptance I craved. Whose pride I solicited. Whose strength and character and eye-makeup I mimicked.
Your last words to me were Annie-bo-banny. A pet name you gave me along with my real one. I might be lying to myself, but I took those words to mean that I was in fact the daughter you wanted after all. You wouldn't call just anyone that.
I never wanted a daughter until you died. Please tell God or whoever it ended up being to give her your face. I just want to see your face.