Black on Black Grime

I wear Converse All-Stars just about everywhere when I’m not in my Bistro Crocs (chili peppers on one pair, the Swedish Chef on the other). Since I have both black with black trim and brown with tan, there is no outfit I can’t make them match. Most of the time, I wear the preppiest clothes imaginable, the All-Stars and a Mickey Mouse watch just for whimsy.

I took both pairs with me when I went to Houston last October for the anniversary of my mother’s death, and when I walked around her gravesite, Texas red clay stuck to the black rubber like, well, clay… which is probably why it’s still there. It would take a toothbrush to get it all out, but I can’t bring myself to do it. It is as if everywhere I wear them, a piece of my mother comes with me- well, the “dust to dust” part, anyway.

I’ve gotten over the crying every day, and into the stage where I want to be reminded of my mother. However, as strange as it may seem, only in small doses. Seeing her Christmas sweatshirt in my closet? Fine. Randomly running across a piano or hearing solo piano music? Instant meltdown. My neural pathways just can’t take it at this time. One memory leads to another, tangent upon tangent, until I want to curl into the fetal position and hope that makes it all go away.

It doesn’t.

I’m not that far out from the second anniversary of her death. It was October 2nd. Two years is barely enough time to learn to breathe again… at least, all the way down. Sometimes I have to actually remember to exhale. When my fight or flight is engaged, I just keep inhaling until it occurs to me that I might hyperventilate, and that really doesn’t do me any good. It’s uncomfortable at best and frightening at its worst.

I wear an ichthus necklace at all times with her fingerprint as the pattern in the middle. Sometimes, when I feel the most vulnerable, I use it as an “ET moment,” my finger touching hers.

When you have a loved one die, the funeral home will try and sell you all sorts of crap that’s marked up 5,000%. This one thing has been worth it. Of course the fingerprint is taken from the body post-mortem, and I won’t lie that it hurts deeply when I’ve told people that and they say, “that’s creepy.” Well, I’ve never seen any store that makes those necklaces for people who are alive, so as much as you may think it, say it out loud and I am likely to withdraw from you, because this necklace is basically the only thing I have left of her. She willed her piano to me, but in Maryland, I don’t have a place to store it. My aunt has it until I do, and that is equally comforting.

I was offered many, many of her things… especially clothes from her closet. They were not my style and several sizes too big. She kept a toy chest of all my childhood things, so I took those back. Everything else was lost on me. I don’t want her stuff. I want her.

It’s just stuff. My house fire convinced me of that. Just more I’d have to find a place for that in the end, wouldn’t bring me any closer to her than I am right now. We talk all the time, because I’m not waiting for an answer. There’s nothing within me that says letters deserve a reply…. anymore. I just send thoughts into the ether and hope someone’s listening in all cases, but especially hers.

I am sad and angry that One Mississippi on Amazon Prime was canceled, because especially the pilot got me through some really rough times. For those not in the know, it’s a fictional account of Tig Notaro losing her mother. When I couldn’t reach my own emotions, I’d turn on the show and let them bubble up. The best part is watching the fictional version of Tig experience post-traumatic growth, to know that it does get better over time… as long as “time” is Jeremy Bearimy. If you aren’t a fan of “The Good Place,” time in the show moves so oddly that to display it visually looks like the signature of a person named, you guessed it, “Jeremy Bearimy.” As a sidenote, if a unified theory of everything posited originally by Stephen Hawking is found, I’m pretty sure the writers on “The Good Place” will stumble across it accidentally while writing something else. Cambridge, you’re on notice.

The “Jeremy Bearimy” episode really got through to me because it is also the explanation of grief… how you think it goes in a linear fashion and in reality, it is like finding a nest of tangled necklaces in the back of that drawer you forgot to clean out in 1982… and the chains are so impossibly delicate that you’ll never be able to tease them back out. One minute you’re fine- full of joy, even. The next, you’re sobbing so hard you’re shaking. The best day and the worst day are the same.

I know for certain that I will never take off this necklace, and it is amazing how carefully I watch my shoes to see if the red clay starts to fall off. But even if the necklace breaks and I step in water, rendering my black shoes black again, all I have to do is look in the mirror, and my face will tell me her story…. from the ascender of the J to the descender of the Y…. but mostly, my eyebrows.

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