A Letter to My Mother on How Much I Miss Her and How Much She’s Missed
by Sosha Lewis
You’ve been gone for seven years. Some days it feels as if you haven’t been here for decades, other days the shock feels as raw and fresh as it did on that bright, cloudless, Carolina blue sky day when I learned you had finally lost your 30-year fight with addiction.
I can still hear your voice. It is getting harder. I have to be very still, the room very quiet, but it’s there. The voice, which with one syllable could soothe all that troubled me, and in another tone fill my soul with anger. Anguish. Disgust. Disappointment.
Your voice. Mama’s voice.
When I hear you in my head it is always your warm, dancing, smiling voice. It is the one I am holding on to. The one I don’t want to fade. The one I wish I could hear—just one more time.
Your other voice, the one that crackled and spit and faded off like a dying robot in a late-night movie was the last one I heard. It is the one that I try to forget.
I miss your voice. I miss you. It pisses me off that I miss you. It pisses me off that you missed out on so many aspects of life. It shatters my heart that the day you died, alone, in a sad, beaten-down trailer on the side of a muddy mountain, you didn’t know that you had missed out on what should have been one of the most joyous experiences of your life—being a grandmother.
Even before I was pregnant, I worried about the role that you would play, the role that you thought you should play in my child’s life. Truthfully, you did not deserve to play much of a role at all, but I knew that I would not have completely denied you this wonderful little creature. I was never able to completely deny you, but I knew that I would have to protect her. I would not let her be exposed to the life that you led. As sad and unrealistic as I knew it was, there was a part of me, though, the part where the scared but trying to be brave, the sad but trying to be happy little kid still lives, which thought that maybe my daughter would finally be the push that you needed to become the person that you should have been.
However, that cycle of worry and make-believe came to a quick and bittersweet end on Sunday, November 9, 2008. I was standing in the kitchen, in the house that I love, in the city that I have grown to love. You never saw my house. It is not a mansion, but it is warm, clean, comfortable—welcoming. It is filled with love, and with laughter, and with caring, loyal, supportive, loud, funny, trustworthy people. It makes me feel secure. You never stepped foot in my house.
You missed out on my house.
Tony was outside mowing the grass and I had to get to him. I had to lean into him, put the side of my head into the space between his chest and shoulder, hear his heartbeat. He saw that I was crying and thought something was wrong with the baby that we had just learned I was carrying. I told him that you were gone, that it was, in fact, finally over. He wrapped his arms around me—kept me upright. He smelled like leaves.
It is a shame that you never got to know my husband.
He is the Ricky to my Lucy; simply shaking his head when I break yet another phone or misplace my wallet for the eighth time in a week. He grows delicious tomatoes, he can fix anything, he loves to fish. Old people and dogs adore him. His sense of humor runs from goofy to dry to raunchy. He is the hardest worker I know and he can tie about 387 different kinds of knots. When the zombie apocalypse hits, he is who you want by your side. He adores me and I him.
You missed out on my husband.
You missed out on the father to Conley Marie Lewis, who was born on June 17, 2009 at 8:14pm, seven months and eight days after you died. She weighed 6lbs, 2oz and was a squatty 18 inches long. She was two weeks early and she was delivered by C-section because she was stubbornly breech.
For years, I said that I did not want to be a mom, said I had been a mother—to my brother and sister, to you. However, I have never been more wrong about anything. A mom is what I was meant to be, her mom was what I was meant to be. And, I had certainly never been close to being a mother before. I had been an extremely scared teenager that was put into a situation where I had to take care of even more scared little kids. I did not do a very good job.
I am going to do a much better job now. As for the damage that had been done to me, it was as if I could feel the broken parts of me start to come back together when I held my daughter for the first time. I was okay with myself. I knew that I could stop trying so hard. I knew that people liked me for who I am.
I am intensely loyal. I sometimes deflect hurt with sarcasm. I love to vacuum. I count to 18 when I dunk an Oreo in milk. I am a hard worker. I make a mean BBQ meatloaf. I love red wine. I have great friends. I am dependable. I completed a marathon. I like to read in the bathtub. Movie theaters are one of my favorite places in the world. I love spending Friday nights curled up on the couch with Tony and Conley. Snoring drives me crazy. I am no longer afraid to say I am a writer. I tell a pretty good story. I am going to tell your story, our story. I know that I will screw up from time to time, but I am determined to be the best mom possible.
You missed out on your daughter.
And I forgive you.
Your addiction caused enough sadness and strife to fill several lifetimes. Forgiving you does not make those memories disappear. However, I hope it allows me to be a better friend and better wife. Most importantly, Mom, I hope that forgiving you makes me a better mom.
She makes my sky bluer and my sun brighter. Music sounds better and food tastes better because she is here.
It was never simple with you, with us. It still isn’t. However, for Conley and me, it is simple. Easy.
Your granddaughter is kind, goofy. She’s Batman—and, a rock star. She loves bacon. Conley is chatty and secure. She hugs every one. We sing an off-key version of “You Are My Sunshine” every night before bed. The beach is one of her favorite places. Her giggle can pull me out of the darkest funks. She has an imaginary friend named NeNe who can be quite the troublemaker. And when Conley gets upset, we dance it out. Her favorite song is “She’s A Rainbow” by the Rolling Stones.
You missed out on my daughter.
I dreaded the day that Conley would ask about you. It happened not that long ago. Out of nowhere she said, “Why don’t I know your mom?” I told her that you had died and it was sad, but that it was okay because you weren’t sick anymore. She said that she wished she had known you because she would have brought you some chicken soup to make you feel better. She asked me to tell her about you. So, I pulled her onto my lap.
Your grandmother Starr had a wonderful smile that was as warm as a spring day. Her laundry always smelled so good. She carried me off a mountainside when I broke both of my arms. She gave great hugs. She taught me to swim at Linkous. She took me for cherry Cokes at the Flat Iron. She loved orange SweeTarts. She introduced me to Janis Joplin. Law and Order was her favorite show. And, she sure would have loved you.
Mom, you missed out on you.
I am glad that your struggle, our struggle, is over. I don’t know what happens to us after we die. But I feel you with me, with us. I like to think that you look out for us, and that in death you became the mom you could never fully be in life—the one that you were meant to be.
This piece by Sosha Lewis first appeared in MUTHA Magazine: Exploring real-life motherhood, from every angle, at every stage.
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