Firstly - Happy birthday!
If I am counting right, yesterday was supposed to be the 52nd. I remember the last time you had a birthday -- you were thirty-eight and you had caterers and big vases with flowers, etc. It was awesome. It was like you knew it was going to be the Last of the Titans.
Fast forward to fourteen years later, here we are. It wasn't a heavy day at work -- man, you should have seen me in November, that was ridiculous, and anything that isn't more ridiculous than that should certainly be "not heavy" in my book -- it's just one of those days.
The death news I've been receiving from friends all bring me back to you. (Two friends lost their moms to cancer just this month; how cruel is that, really? Still cruel after all these years. Dear people who are looking for the cure -- hurry.) What do you say in moments like that, really? That it gets better? (Not really -- you just get used to things, they're more right, I'm just more hopeful.) That we carry you with us eventually, that we'll never not have you since, you know, moms and daughters are inseparable? Partly true.
I have been carrying you in me all this time (all twelve years of you), but last night, faced with an incredibly adult problem, I was looking for someone to talk to, someone who'd possibly understand and tell me something like, You know, I had a similar problem once... and I couldn't find anyone and that's usually when I go back to you; calling you out from that portion of my brain is like peering into a darkened room with a soft, Mom? You there?, the mixed scent of your makeup and perfume giving you away.
(Hah remember that time I went to you about a girl? Priceless, wasn't that.)
But last night -- I don't know if I just wasn't listening closely enough, or if I was just distracted by my ridiculous television shows. I don't know if it's time to admit that we just weren't together long enough for you to have input in these kinds of problems. I mean, we never really talked shop about your work; we never got to that part where you tell me about being a good person post-graduation.
(Apart from punctuality -- your last words were: Pumasok ka na, para di ka ma-late. I had gone back to say a brief goodbye that morning before going to school. It was already past six. You were nursing a fever. That was the last time I saw you. The next thing I knew you're already in the hospital. And the next thing I knew after that. Well. That's it. That's all.)
(Mom, how do you do these things? People are really, really baffling and sometimes, it makes me sad. It makes me crazy, the things I can't talk about.)
I can almost hear you say: Oh remember when you were younger and your problems were younger and all that made you happy were those little victories in those quiz bees -- remember those?
Oh yeah, of course. And in equal measure, all the small losses meant the end of the world. I cried a lot, didn't I? Because I lost a lot.
And I'd be in the audience taking notes. So later you'd know what you got wrong.
This still makes me laugh, sometimes, all those notes she'd written behind all those invitations -- she used to copy every single question, and take note of every single question I got wrong -- mostly misspelled words, since that was usually my thing. Afterwards, I'd look at her list and think, OF COURSE THAT WORD IS SPELLED THAT WAY.
(Mom I hope you're still taking notes. I'm too close and I keep missing all the important details.)
You got to write it all down. Last year I probably remember more, and next year, I will probably remember less. How much of the you in my head is purely true, how much of it have I made up as I went along for survival's sake, how much of it is really me after all, just getting older?
I wish I knew, I wish I knew, I wish I knew.