I know that you are gone, but I still remember your birthday.
I know that we weren’t that close for a mother and daughter, but I still remember your birthday.
I have forgotten a lot of things about how life was with you and me—I do remember us in screaming matches while I was a teen, and I still remember your birthday.
I remember how you would look at me with concern and try to solve all of my problems, but they piled up too high, and we both had to give up. I do remember your laugh and the subtle scent of wine and cigarettes on your clothes, and I still feel numb when it’s your birthday.
Twelve years ago, when I was pregnant with your second grandchild, we had been estranged, and I found out you were dead in a hotel room. And I still remember your birthday.
I remember my tears of anguish and my breath of relief that day when I crumbled on the stairs after learning about your demise. Is it bad that I felt relieved? Is it bad that I could finally breathe? I had been waiting for that call, and then it came, and I could stop waiting for the news of your passing. I didn’t know when or how it would come, but each day, I wondered if today was the day.
Your birthday is today, and I can’t help but feel a tightness in my chest, a mix of feeling a little feisty and a little upset. Your birthday does that to me and so does the anniversary of your death. I long to know you better; I long for what could have been—but you are gone.
I don’t know if I grieve for the one who gave me life or for the life you lived. I don’t know if the deep sadness is about missing you or about missing out on the mother I never had. I don’t know if the grief will ever go away. There’s a dull ache when I see girls with their mothers and there’s remorse when I know my children go without a grandmother on my side.
Another year passes, and I do the best I can to make you proud. I stay sober, and you are the reason. I don’t drink because I never wanted to be taken by men and alcohol the way you were. I eat healthy because your life was gone too soon. I breathe and pray because I never saw you talk to God. I try to heal my emotions as they come because I don’t want to bury them alive with drugs, alcohol, television, and food.
I take care of my body and mind because I want to be able to look people in the eye. I walk through my fear because I always want to stay in front of it.
I remember your spikey, bleach-blonde hair. I remember how you sounded when you were uncomfortable and nervous, which was often.
I remember your insecurity and how you felt not good enough. I remember you saying if it wasn’t for me you would kill yourself, and you did just that, but not the way you had envisioned.
Your birthday is today and I will say a prayer for you. I will pray that you are happy and at peace. I will pray that you can see me sometimes and see your grandchildren—they are so amazing. I will pray you can see my healthy marriage and my husband, whom you never got to meet.
Most of all, I want you to know that your life wasn’t lived in vain.
I’ve broken this long cycle of abuse and addiction, and it is ending with me. I thank you for having me, even though you were alone. It must have been scary. I thank you for trying the very best you could with what you knew at the time. I am sorry I didn’t accept you as you were. I am sorry I lost respect for you all those years prior. I am sorry my resentment overtook my kindness.
I hope you had at least a few good years. I hope you look back on your life with some happy memories. I hope you know you were loved. You were loved by me—even though I couldn’t show it.