Friday, January 30, 2015

Tongue Tied

I'm bad at telling people.

I haven't figured out how to phrase things in a way that minimizes shock, that leaves the listener intact and allows us to move forward to other, easier topics. So far I've been settling on some version of the following:

"Oh, yeah, well, so, my mom died, actually. Like, a month ago or so, and, so, yeah. Things are.. well, I'm surviving. But there's that. Just, you know, so you know."

Slick as all get out.

I decided early on that I had no desire to make some grand social media confession. I'd done that when my grandmother died and, while it made it easier in some ways, it also resulted in some of my more tenuous acquaintances reading into everything I posted during the weeks following as some sort of "inner view" to my psyche. I got tired really quickly of heartfelt responses to Death Cab for Cutie lyrics, in other words.

Plus, this isn't really the same. The death of a grandparent is expected, in some ways. I was 28 when my maternal grandmother died, and she was 90. Though I loved her fiercely, and her death forever changed our family, there was some semblance of order. My mother was only 64. Her father buried her. There is no order there. There is no comfort in a life long-lived. I received a condolence card the other day that urged me to cherish "the lifetime of memories" we had together. I snorted. We hardly had a lifetime together. 2/3rds of a life time. Maybe 3/4. We got shortchanged, Hallmark, get the message.

I also wanted to avoid the social media rubbernecking. I think we're drawn to tragedy in some way, with an insatiable need for details that's only kept at bay by propriety. Maybe because by hearing more about someone's loss, we feel like we can outrun it, or avoid making the same mistakes. Or maybe by acknowledging its awfulness we feel like we're sending up an incantation to protect ourselves. Publicly we're all "How awful, I can't imagine. My thoughts and prayers with all of you." but quietly, to ourselves and to our deity we think "Thank you, God for making sure it wasn't me."

I know people stalk people's social media following a tragedy because I've done it myself. Looking for details on how they're doing, drawing conclusions from their reposted memes. And if you don't believe me, hours after her colleagues were told the news, my sister received a friend request from the sour girl who sits near her that hasn't spoken to her in the nearly-a-year they've been working together. Nice try, deets-seeker.

So, by not making it public, I've been faced with the slow reveal. When things looked grim, I told three friends, two of whom had lost mothers when they were in their 20s and 30s. When things ended, I told those same three. And when my best friend, Jax, asked if she could do anything, I asked her to tell people we knew, because that was an absolutely impossible task at the time. But still, even after the obit was published and the friends were told, and work was informed, there was still a lot of people that didn't know. Which is okay, but I'm still young enough that its shocking so every time I see someone I know (which, during this season is quite frequently), I usually have to steel myself up for another awkward explanation. All I want to say is: sorry to ruin your day with my dead mother.

Once my grandfather died, I doubled down and buttoned those lips even harder. Because one is enough, two is just... well, all aboard the pity blimp, y'know?

So why, after all this talk of privacy, am I here? Because, even if it's the internet, it still feels like something of a safe space. Because reading the blogs of my friends who have suffered loss has been really helpful, so maybe this is something of an offering in return. Because when you really only think about one thing, from the moment you wake up, to the moment you wake up again, you start to get self-conscious about talking about it constantly with "real people".

Because maybe the reason it's so hard to formulate the words to explain it to people is because it's not the kind of thing you can sum up in a sentence or two.

Although, basically it all comes down to this:

I miss my mom. I miss my grandfather.

Nothing profound, but there it is.

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