In four days it will be my birthday. I’ll be 47, sober for almost two years, in recovery from addiction for three, and in Al-Anon for almost 13. A list of “birthdays.”
My mother died of lung cancer 12 years ago at 58. I rarely miss her, but there are three days of the year on which I predictably, and sometimes rather desperately, wish she were still alive: her birthday (April 19); my son’s birthday (September 19); and my birthday. Who remembers your birth better than your own mother?
It makes me sad that my son doesn’t get to have a grandma nearby, that my mother never got to see how well my son’s turning out.
(“He’s a good kid,” my father told me before he died. “He’ll be OK. You’re doing a good job.” These words are like the chair in which I put my feet up at the end of the day. I don’t often sit in that chair because when I do, I fall asleep—it’s so comforting.)
My son used to crawl on her lap and play with her necklace, a gold replica of the rose window in Nôtre Dame cathedral. Dad brought the pendant back from a Paris business trip in 1983. My mother wore it always, and after my mother died Daddy gave it to me. … My son would crawl up onto her lap and stick the disk in his mouth, and she’d let him do it. In the brief time they knew each other, she let him do stuff she’d never have let us do. The grandkids would have mellowed her out.
For our birthdays we got to ask for our favorite dinners and whatever we wanted for dessert. Except for my birthday Mom would make pumpkin pie. And every year I would have preferred to have something chocolate but I could never tell her this, because she somehow got this idea that pumpkin pie was my favorite, or else it was because I was born the day before Halloween. She needed to be the perfect mom who baked the perfect birthday dessert. There was something in me that couldn’t dispel her illusions. That something is the obsessive caretaking thing about me, the thing that’s overly influenced by what other people think, the alcoholic-child-thing. She obsessively took care of me, and I obsessively cared for her right back.
Today I’d be able to find a way to let her know that I like chocolate better than pumpkin. Not so I could have the chocolate, but so we could know each other better. So we could be honest.
I grew up in a family rife with addiction. I lost both parents to it. All my cousins who are still alive have lost people close to them to addiction. Many of us have lost people to addiction—not just family members but also friends, fellows in the rooms, sponsors. The Subversive Librarian wrote a remarkable post about this recently—about how suicides and deaths due to addiction tempt her to relapse, make her desperate with the idea that she might after all have to follow them.
So she takes action to insure that she doesn’t.
Who do you miss? What’s your experience with loss?