I grieved her when I realized I was losing her to alcoholism. I grieved her again when the alzheimer’s became evident. I grieved when she moved to assisted living. I grieved when I cleaned out her house. At some point, one would think there’s not much left to grieve…

But there always is.

“Throw me no life vest
I’m not drowning
My lungs are fine
I am breathing for the first time
Like I have so many times before

The salt in the air is the salt in the sea
Is the salt the earth, is the salt in me

So please, let this vessel go down
I am taking on water
I am so far from the shore
I am giving my flesh to your body
Ocean open wide once more

Tell me no tall tale
I’m not climbing
Your walls are down
I am feeling for the first time
My way in is my way out

The salt in the air is the salt in the sea
Is the salt the earth, is the salt in me

So please, let this vessel go down
I am taking on water
I am so far from the shore
I am giving my flesh to your body
Ocean open wide once more” -Hoots and Hellmouth

I’m not going to lie–and I’m not sure why I ever thought I should–but cleaning out my mom’s house is really tearing me up, both physically and emotionally. It is just too much. I don’t even have words. Sometimes I have to remind myself that she’s not dead. But she’s definitely not the same person she used to be. I feel that she would want me to have a lot of her (and her mother’s) belongings… and that to not take them would dishonor her. But I have no space and the excess stuff is causing me stress. We are at critical mass.

When I was visiting mom last week, she told another member of the community that “It’s just so hard” having a daughter. The other woman asked her, “What’s so hard about it?” My mom answered something like “watching her grow up.” (Her language is always so convoluted now.) The other woman said, “Yes but you have to let them fly.”

I wondered if this undercurrent of rhetoric has always been what’s brought me back home. And what’s made me feel so guilty about my own… “flight.”

Looking through my mom’s belongings… it’s so interesting what she kept (and what she didn’t), even in the throes of her dementia. She kept many many letters from her students. My God, she was an awesome teacher. Numerous (numerous) students wrote to her from college… about life lessons they learned in her classroom that had served them for years. One student apologized for cheating and said my mom’s comment of “Why??” with a zero at the top of the page had changed her life forever and made her prioritize things like integrity and self-respect.

My grandmother saved some great things too… One was a project I had to complete by interviewing members of my family. My mother wrote a letter to me. She was happy for me. But she “missed what was.” I was destined to regret growing up from a young age.

In all, one thing is for sure… being home has forced me to process a LOT. It is overwhelming. All memories seem tainted by recent events–i.e. the dissolving of our family structure. It is hard to remember that just because some things weren’t forever, that it doesn’t discount their once treasured value.

I don’t even know what to say. I’m crushed… I think. Now is probably a good time for a gratitude list:

  • Getting the airport family together again
  • Sunny 70-degree days
  • Being close to mom
  • Having a trip down memory lane with dad while we clean out the house
  • A working car
  • Tiger
  •  A (beautiful) roof over my head
  • Getting to see Will’s new house soon!
  • Pumpkin beer
  • Getting organized… albeit a process
  • The stars at night (it’s been so clear and dark)

“I’ll never find my way back
I’ll never find my way back home.”

Writing always helps me clear my head and arrive at conclusions I might not have otherwise. Then it makes sense that I should have written about this decision long ago… Like, probably before I made it.

I went to the ocean looking for answers. But that’s just it… the ocean doesn’t answer to anyone except maybe the moon. I have to figure out what will be my moon. What will be my calling.

I am torn between an obligation to my mom and the life I want for myself, including a career in a city I love. I was never meant to leave Massachusetts and live in cow town like this. Or was I? I’ve been home to see two of my friends get married, reconnect with other friends, vote in this year’s election as a resident of Bucks County, and of course… spend time with my mom.

At the same time… I’m employed at a (dis)organization where I’m not even making enough money to make ends meet. I’ve had to push desperately to spend time with my mom. I’m watching one of my closest friends dealing (or not dealing) with alcoholism. I didn’t get to say good bye to my dog. My feelings never had a place in this town.

I remember the way the skyline made me feel. The smell of the T. The way the lakes sparkled at dusk when I was happy and exhausted from a long swim. I miss my friends and my job and my support group and my roommates and Chris. I can’t even bring myself to change my license plates or update my location on Facebook.

I could stick it out for a year here… work in an inner city school or do therapy at a community mental health center and risk shooting my career in the foot. What would I say a year from now if a neuropsychology position became available? Why had I clearly accepted these positions that were not consistent with my career goals and clinical skills?

To say good bye again to my mom would be difficult…I hate myself for hoping she forgets who I am soon. Hell, even saying good bye to my dad would be tough. And Reynolds… I would miss Uncle Reynolds. I think the world of him.

I want to be like the ocean and answer to no one. But there are too many anchors.