Wednesday was the one year anniversary of Tough Cookie (my step mom) passing away. I don’t even like calling it an anniversary. That seems like something that you celebrate. I never understood when people made a special day out of a loved one dying. Releasing balloons, going to a gravesite, documenting and retelling of stories about the person and how much they are missed.
All I can remember about January 7th is leaving work early to go up to their house. My sister was in town, partly to help take care of Tough Cookie, and partly to say goodbye. When I got there I went to see her in her bed. I wasnt ready for it. She was breathing heavily, having refused to continue oxygen earlier that day. My dad said she knew what was going on and could hear me. He told her I was there. I took her hand and told her I was there. She got really upset and was looking for my dad’s hand again. I went out to the living room with the rest of the family. The nurse was on her way over.
I had no idea that she was going to die that day, I don’t know if any of us did. I was convinced she would live to meet “bubbles”, just 6 more months.
After the nurse got there she went in and took her vitals. She came out of the room and said it was time and we needed to hurry and say our goodbyes if we had anything left to say. We all took turns going into her room. Then we all gathered around her hugging her and telling her we loved her. Then she was gone.
A few weeks ago, I was driving to work remembering what was happening a year prior, like I do almost everyday. We were taking turns taking care of Tough Cookie so that my dad didn’t lose his job, making a Thanksgiving feast and bringing it to my dad and her at the nursing home, hoping for her recovery, realizing it wasn’t going to happen…. Then, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” came on the radio. I sat and listened to the lyrics and thought “no it isn’t the most wonderful time, it’s the worst time”. It’s the worst time for a lot of people, it’s hard if you have recently lost someone you love, especially if it’s around the time that they died. So I changed the radio station. Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” came one and I lost it. Tough Cookie loved that song, and she would turn it up and sing it at the top of her lungs. Ironically we found out after she died that the singer wrote that song after his mom died from cancer. I still can’t listen to it without sobbing.
I don’t know how to accept that she isn’t coming back. My brain has been in denial for a year. I think I convinced myself somehow that she was on an extended train trip or vacation. I just cannot fathom that I will never get to talk to her again, get drunk and silly, introduce my son to her, heck even argue with her. It’s just not right and I don’t know how to do it. I wish I believed that one day we would be hanging out in some afterlife together. That would make it so much easier. It’s supposed to get better as time goes on, but I’m afraid that eventually the memories will fade and all I will have is a photograph.