Gone, But Not

It’s Saturday, November 19. I’m 17 years old and trying to shield my face and thighs from the sun blazing through my aunt’s Camry. Despite the date, I’m wearing shorts, because November scorchers are standard in New Orleans. I cashed my first paycheck and was on the way to visit my mother in the hospital. I bought her a card and a box of Russell Stover’s. We sat in traffic for hours. We sat in traffic so long, by the time we arrived at the hospital, they led us directly to a small room and my dad said, “She’s gone.”

“Gone” has always seemed like such a trivial word for death; as if they’ll be back with milk and toilet paper at any moment. In all fairness, I’ve waited for her to come back. I saw them close the casket and it still feels like a 22-year-old prank. If I saw her sitting on my Pittsburgh porch, I might just knowingly nod, unlock the door and make her some lemonade. I’ve accepted so many deaths in my life, but hers always seemed unreal.

I spent the majority of October in the hospital. After my first procedure, I had a really hard day and night. I can’t remember when I was awake and when I was dreaming. I do remember hearing, “What happened, Melanie?” My mama was in my dream, wearing her signature brightly colored something, smiling as though I burned the chicken and she was here to save dinner. I couldn’t even talk. I just stared and let her talk to me – about everything. She rubbed my scalp and braided my hair. She chastised me for not bringing lotion to the hospital, and rubbed my elbows and ankles with vaseline from her bag. She did all the things I took for granted when I was a wild little black girl who just wanted to be barefoot in a tree. And I let her. For three days, every time i fell asleep, my mama came to me and took care of me; always bright, always smiling.

When she asked about my babies, I asked her to stay around and meet them. She just clicked her tongue and smirked a little – her go to response when I wasn’t being realistic. “You’re going to take care of them. I’m going to take care of you.” She asked if anyone else takes care of me and before I could answer, she said, “If they do, let them and love them. Stop being a jackass.”

 

The afterlife has never been a clear concept to me. I don’t believe what I was taught, but I also don’t have a belief of my own. Much of the last month, I’ve pondered what those days and dreams meant. Can dreams influence your well-being? They were so vivid, I was able to make it through those initial difficult days. Also, considering my mama came to me exactly when I needed her, perhaps “gone” is the correct term.

My health wasn’t the only thing struggling in this past year. My heart and spirit floundered as well. Losing my mama is a cruelty I may never understand. But the kindness in which she “returned” to me, while not smoothing over the mama-sized hole in my heart, brought me back to myself. I still miss her, but 22 years later, she can still reach into my heart and move me.

Birdie, I miss you, I love you, and I’m forever grateful. Thank you.

My Big Blue Monster

Usually today is the day I’d post my “Seven Songs to Save Your Life” post of the week. Unfortunately, this week, my Big Blue Monster is in town, so I haven’t felt saved. He sits on my chest whispering that it’s time to quit. He’s big, chubby, and quiet. He’s not even mean, and I don’t think he wants me to stay in bed. He just gives me all the reasons I can and should. He ultimately moves, but not without a lot of pushing and prodding from me. Then he chains himself to my arms and legs, because he doesn’t like being lonely. He walks slowly, so when he’s in town, I walk down my steps one at a time and getting to the corner feels like an eternity.

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Herry Monster, whyyyyyyyyyy?

I deal not only with Seasonal Affective Disorder, but difficult memories that come with autumn. Add the stress of back-to-school time, and I’m typically a wreck from October until my birthday. I know the drill. That doesn’t make the road easier. I just know I can live through it, like I have for two decades of autumns.

For me, meds have not been particularly successful. Earlier this year, I took one drug that came with suicidal ideation. That was fun. Not reacting to the things that you think will help is an added stressor. I’m also fat, and doctors are less inclined to help fat people. (I wrote about learning that the hard way during a depressive episode here.)

It is not easy and it’s admittedly more difficult with age. So I’ve slowed everything down (or stopped in spots). I’m being an ungracious host to get myself well. I can’t stop my Big Blue Monster from showing up, but I sure can make conditions unfavorable so that he can get his ass up out of here.

#504Ever

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My clunky Dell computer, the one that took up so much room when I packed it the year before, would stay behind. “I’m getting right back on the road Tuesday.” My tiny car couldn’t spare the space for what would ultimately be a round trip. When I locked my door that was the last time I turned the key as a New Orleans resident. Read more

The Bear or the Pregnant Lady Fair – Who to Help?

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When women are pregnant, everyone is full of advice. Mothers, aunts coworkers, and friends are fountains of (at times, unsolicited) input and advice. Being pregnant is like being trapped in a Google search bar with someone else at the controls; beset with questions you never asked. Read more

Ten Good Things

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Mondays eat the unwashed butt. Or at least that’s how it feels when the alarm goes off signifying that the weekend is officially over. I thought of a thousand reasons to stay in bed and never leave, without any great difficulty this morning. But I had to get out of bed, so instead, I came up with ten good things to get me out of bed today.

  1. Bob’s Burgers – If you haven’t watched this quirky slice of Americana, you’re losing. Bob’s droll resignation is balanced perfectly by his wife Linda’s (ever annoying) upbeat attitude about everything. Each of the kids are gems and every character adds spice to this show. Netflix binge worthy. It will also make you want a burger. Or maybe that’s just me.
  2. Obnoxious Bows – I love bows. That’s one of the things I miss since the advent of gift bags. This weekend I saw a purse with a huge pink bow and it altered my entire weekend’s trajectory.
  3. Chicken – I shouldn’t have to sell you on this.
  4. Finn Balor – He’s an Irish wrestler with a wide, smirking mouth. This is enough.
  5. Trapper Keepers – I estimate that an old school Trapper Keeper would improve my quality of life by roughly 7% (13% if it is galaxy themed).
  6. Baby High Fives – Those chubby hand slaps are stamps from the universe telling you that things aren’t so bad.
  7. Cartwheels – They’re symbols of freedom.
  8. Ballerina flats – You can wear them to work, happy hour, a date, or a street fight.
  9. Incense – They always make a house smell like a home.
  10. You – You’re made it. You could have given up in the night and no one would have blamed you, but you didn’t. Do something nice for yourself today because you’ve earned it.

That’s my list. What’s on yours?