(I wrote this post Dec. 28, 2017; didn’t have the courage to share until today, my birthday).
Today, on the 12th anniversary of my mom’s passing, I’d like to share a story.
My mom had 3 brothers, all of them older. She rode bikes up and down the streets of Mansfield, Ohio with them. They gave her her first cigarette in the basement of her granny’s house at age 5. She smoked until she died at age 44.
I don’t have many details about them. What I do know is what she told me. She told me that each of them died at age 28. They weren’t triplets. They were each a year or two apart in age, but by age 28 each of them had met their demise. One died of a drug overdose. Another died of alcoholism. Yet another committed suicide.
On July 17th, 1989, just two weeks before her 28th birthday, my mom died of alcohol poisoning. They revived her. When she came to, she decided that it was now, or never: she was convinced that she would die if something didn’t change.
This is where our stories intersect.
When she woke up that night, the blood work had came back: she was pregnant. They told her that spending so much time without oxygen would have a negative impact on the pregnancy. She might lose the baby. That baby was me.
She lived to be 44 years old. She died of cancer. She died with a little more than 16 years of sobriety. She died on December 28th, 2005 at 6:28am.
The 28 in that date and time still gets me.
After she passed, I told another family member this story. That family member told me that my mom didn’t have any brothers; they never existed.
Whether they are allegorical or whether they were tangible and real and human, I sit here on the anniversary of my mom’s death, at age 27, two months from my 28th birthday, meditating on the wisdom and superstition contained in these occurrences.
I’ve spent all of year 27 looking ahead to year 28. I’ve been trying to nail down a vice, something I could avoid, some ladder I could be sure not to walk under. My older brother seemed to figure his life out at age 28. My younger sister isn’t there yet. I can see it so clearly in their lives… but not in my own.
I don’t have the addictions and tendencies that my mom and her brothers did, but I do think I need to make a change. I need to take better care of myself. I need to eat breakfast and make time to exercise. I need to let things go and go to the doctor when I’m sick. Maybe my vice is failing at self-care. Maybe my vice is anxiety or self-sabotage. I’m really not sure.
The urge to live in a bubble for the next 365 days is very real. I know some people don’t understand it at all; they think I am crazy. But the truth is: all I have is stories. Maybe it isn’t true for other people, but it is for me. My entire heritage at this point is just a story that I tell myself to forget that my entire family tree is dead, except this generation, that we are the stump of something dead, and spring is coming, and we get to start over. Our children are branches sprouting from something that to them, will only exist in stories.
So here I am now, with a story that may not even be true, praying I figured it out already, so that some curse that may not exist does not play out in my life.