I am not a maudlin New Year’s person. I don’t generally reflect too much on the last year, and I don’t usually have huge high hopes/resolutions for the new one. I try to live life one day at a time and take it as it comes, but this year is different. For the first time in my life, I am going into a new year alone. I have a beautiful family, a wonderful husband, and beautiful, healthy, smart children, but the family I was born into is completely gone now.
After an eight year struggle with dementia, my mother died on June 3. We had a small family to begin with, I am the youngest of two children, so I really, truly knew all along that barring a wayward truck or piece of space junk, I’d be the last one left. My brother had a falling out with my parents when I was fifteen years old and I never saw him again, but found out that he died in 2008. My Mammaw died when I was a senior in high school, my Dad died in 2005 and then my mom got sick. Even though she was physically and mentally ill, she was still here and I was not alone. Sadly, by the time she passed, it was a relief. A relief from watching her suffer. A relief from knowing it was coming.
As I approach 2014, it dawns on me that this will be the first year of my life that there is no one on earth who knew me when I grabbed hold of the bar in my closet and my feet left the earth. I got stuck and hung there screaming until my mom and brother, laughing, rescued me. No one but me remembers when I sat in my doll stroller and again got stuck, and sat there screaming until my mom and brother, laughing, rescued me. No one but me remembers the Halloween my mother sat on the porch roof under a sheet with a flashlight turned on, weaving slowly back and forth to scare me, while my brother, laughing, pointed out the “ghost” on the roof. I tried to run, and likely would have run to the next town, but Billy grabbed me, and he and my mom, laughing, showed me that it was her, and then he took me upstairs and helped me climb out on the roof and under the sheet with her, while he went back downstairs and outside and ran around the patio screaming, and falling down in fake terror to make me laugh. Nobody but me remembers how happy and proud it made me when my huge dad with my tiny hand in his giant one introduced me to the firemen at the festival as his “girl.”
I am, for the first time in my life going to start this new year fresh. I am going to try to continue to heal family rifts that were not created by me, but that have profoundly affected me. I am going to use my mother’s things and think of her every day. I am going to continue reminding my son that the Boy Scout ax that he has and loves so much belonged to his Uncle Bill. I am going to remind my daughter that she looks like my mom. Every time my husband fixes something, I am going to remind him that my dad taught him how to do all that stuff. I am going to try to stop crying over everything. It’s time to be myself. It’s time to be the grown up generation in the family. It’s time for me to be happy and content all the time, not just some of the time.