I wake up and I immediately feel sad. I choose not to get up straight away. Dee has gone on his weekly cycle and I am alone in bed. The dogs are on my bed, so I assume that JC has risen and let them in. I curl my body around them. I need organic contact. I try not to think what day it is, but I am unable to think of anything else. Today is the 2nd anniversary of mom’s death and the grief inside of me is still so strong.
It has been building up inside of me for over a week now. I have felt an inner sadness rising up from inside my belly, from the reaches of my soul and although I have tried to ignore it, I have not succeeded.
Last night I couldn’t drag myself to bed. As if I could avoid waking up into the day that she left us, I refused to let sleep overcome me. Of course, eventually it did and my sleep was fitful. I looked at my clock. 8:45am. I definitely am not ready to face the day. Two years. I should be better able to cope by now, surely. But, having experienced a fair bit of grief, I know that there is no time limit. Grief will do what grief wants and you just have to go through it. I think of Baby C and I feel a tear trickle down my cheek. The pain of my mom never meeting him and he not ever knowing mom is too much to bear.
I hear the door open. It is Dee. “Hi,” I say. “How was your ride?”
“Bloody freezing, thanks. I’m getting undressed and getting back into bed to warm up.”
As he does so, I roll over so he can snuggle up to me. “Bloody hell, you are cold!” I squeal.
“And you are so hot, baby.” he says. I am not in the mood for playing. I don’t respond. We lie in silence whilst his body warms up. Eventually, he is sufficiently warm and announces he is going for a shower. I tell him I am staying in bed. “You stay there as long as you like, my love.”
He showers, gives JC breakfast and then heads out to do the shopping. I know I have to get up, but I really don’t want to. My phone buzzes. It is Jay. What are we doing today? My sister had already sent out an email asking us to each get a balloon filled with helium, go somewhere special and release it into the atmosphere (representing it going to heaven) with a message attached. The idea was that because none of us were near each other, in different countries, we would be connected in our remembrance of mom through this act. It is a lovely idea, but as I lay there, I didn’t want to do it. However, I had agreed to do it so was now committed. Jay wanted to know when we were doing it.
I couldn’t think of anywhere special to go. Australia was not mom’s home. It was mine. Not only that, by making Australia my home, I had broken mom’s heart. I had robbed her of five years with me and her grandchildren. Since I couldn’t think of anywhere to go, I decided that the four of us would walk to the bridge that went over the waterway near where we lived. It was close, quiet, and seemed as good a place as any.
Dee and I collect Jay. Em is at home. They both look a bit tired. Baby C is awake and immediately a heaviness strikes my heart once more. Mom should be witnessing this. A voice is in my head telling me that she knows, that she sees. My intellect wonders if that is indeed true. I pray that it is. I cuddle him close to my chest and wonder if this is what mom felt when she held Jay. I pray that I get more than 17 years with Baby C.
We make our way back home stopping at the party shop for the helium filled balloons. I have decided on red. It is mom’s favourite colour. I have also decided to get five balloons – one for each of us including Baby C. It only seems right.
I write my note. Words are totally inadequate to describe how I feel. I attach the note to the balloon, photograph it and take more cards through to the others. I knock on JC’s door. “Don’t come in,” he shouts.
“JC, I need you to write a note to Gogo for us to release the balloons.”
“I’m not coming!”
“Oh JC, please!” I beg.
“You bloody well are coming!” I yell.
“No I’m not!”
Dee comes over to me. “Love, don’t make him come, you know how he gets with emotional stuff.” At this point, I don’t care about autism and how it affects him. All I know is that I want my family, my WHOLE family, the only family I have in Australia, with me. I burst into tears.
“Is it too much to ask to just have my family around me at this time? All I want is for him to walk with us, release his balloon and go. Is that too damn much?” I know he can’t help it, but my grief, rapidly rising up inside of me, is overtaking my rationality.
I hear Dee talk to JC. JC doesn’t want to do it, but he agrees. He doesn’t write a note, but I write one on his behalf. JC jerks his bedroom door open. “I’m leaving now, or not at all!” He’s been backed into a corner and he has come out fighting.
“Don’t be ridiculous, JC, we need two minutes to get ready.
“I don’t care, I’m leaving!”
Dee and I are shouting after JC when Jay emerges from our other spare room having just fed Baby C. I quickly as her to write a note to Gogo and also a note from Baby C. As I am telling her this, and as JC makes it to the front door, I hear voices outside the front door. Dammit, who is it now! My anxiety levels are rising. I just want to release the balloons, and settle down for the afternoon. It is Dee’s parents.
“Hi, we thought we would pop in. We’ve just been to the garden centre and thought we would show you this?” Dee’s dad hands him a pamphlet on mulch. We have been promising mulch for their garden for a long time. I’m standing holding the balloons. “What are you doing?” Dee’s dad asks.
“We are going to release them in the park. It’s the anniversary of mom’s death today.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, love. How many years?”
“Two already? It doesn’t seem that long.”
“Your mum was such a lovely woman.” Dee’s mum says.
“Yes, she was,” I say. I don’t know what to do about the balloons.
“Well, we better get on and let you do what you have to do,” Dee’s dad says.
I suddenly feel guilty. “Do you want to come.”
We start our walk to the lake. Dee’s dad pushes Baby C in the pram and Jay and I walk hand in had. Dee has the two dogs in tow and JC walks a number of steps behind us with his earphones in his ears. I am silent, deep in thought.
We make it to the lake. As we approach the wooden bridge, a lady with a big black dog comes off the bridge. “Oo,” she says, “someone’s having a party!” I just smile. Wishful thinking.
We all stand on the bridge. I give everyone a balloon. “Why weren’t we told about this,” Dee’s dad says, “we loved your mum too, you know.” This outburst takes me a bit by surprise. It didn’t even occur to me to invite Dee’s folks and sister. My grief over the loss of mom has always seemed to me be a solitude endeavour, Iseriously never thought of inviting someone to a memorial of my mom. I look at Dee’s dad. “Well, it was just a spur of the moment thing,” I lie, “I’ll make sure we do it next year with you.” I don’t want him to feel excluded. I immediately worry how Dee’s sister is going to take it when she finds out we were all there and she wasn’t. I’ll have to phone and explain.
Dee’s dad offers to take photos. We have all agreed to photograph the event and post it on facebook to share and feel connected. Right now I feel quite disconnected. Alone in my grief.
I start to speak. “Well, we are here to remember mom, Gogo. Mom, we love you and miss you…”
“And now we let go of the balloons.” JC interjects.
“Well, can you at least say something about Gogo.” I say.
“Goodbye.” JC says.
“How about I love you, Gogo.” I say.
“Okay, let’s go with that,” he replies.
“Dee, what about you?”
“Elaine, you will be sorely missed.”
“Jay?” I say.
“I miss you Gogo.”
“And you?” I say to Dee’s dad.
His lip begins to quiver which shocks me. “Eileen, we loved you and we will miss you.” Eileen was not my mom’s name, but I know he meant Elaine.
“Are we talking about my mum?” Dee’s mum pipes in (Eileen was, however, Dee’s grandmother’s name), “Mum, I miss you very much, but I know that you are now in a better place and now at peace.” I smile. Dee’s mum’s memory has been going for a number of years now. I imagine mom smiling.
We let go of the balloons and as we do so, Dee’s dad snaps away. JC immediately walks off the bridge towards home. He has had enough sensory overload for one day. I understand.
Dee and his parents walk the other way pushing baby C. Jay and I link arms and watch the balloons disappear into the clouds. I imagine my mom’s soul flying like that on the day she died, finally free.
I look at Jay. “I love you, Angel.”
“I love you Mum.” We hug.
I look in the distance at Dee and his folks pushing Baby C. Baby C, who is only 2 and a bit weeks old. Jay and I reach them and we walk and talk, but not about mom. Four generations walking around the park. I do wish my mom could be here to celebrate Baby C with us, to push his pram around the park. But she isn’t and I have to accept that. I guess it is what one would call the circle of life and there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it.