This comes to me while I’m putting a bottle of water into the freezer to chill quickly. I’m on my way to my storage unit so I can perhaps remove some items with the new perspective gained by going through my mother’s stuff. Namely “if someone else had to decide what to do with this item I’m hanging on to, would its presence in my storage unit make *any* sense whatsoever?”
Anyway, for whatever reason I was thinking about how refrigerators work. Cold isn’t a thing. Heat is a thing. Refrigerators work by absorbing heat and discarding it. Cold is essentially an absence. The space between stars is unimaginably cold because there’s nothing there.
Love is something. Life is something. This is why we associate them with heat: instead of absence (which is just as likely as anything else) you get presence. Metaphorically, the body gets cold because the thing that was the person you knew has abandoned the building.
At least in my experience, grief is an absence too. I’m naturally absent-minded (or just present-minded for stuff that isn’t immediately obvious to anyone else). But it’s really bad these days. I stop sentences in the middle and forget what I was trying to say. I’ll be in the middle of a conversation and someone has asked me a question and I can’t remember what the question was even though I was watching their mouth as the words came out.
And it isn’t grief for a paragon of motherly integrity. As discussed elsewhere, the lady had her fractures and a complete blindness to the fact that she wasn’t perfect. We were in the car two years ago, her bloodwork had come back with the cancer markers on a rising trend. She said to me “I just want to be your good mom forever,” and I thought “listen lady, you could start by being a good mom now.”
That seems spectacularly unfair in retrospect.
She did what she could with what she had, but she preferred her version of events to the reality. She didn’t remember or acknowledge the gross failures… the petty selfishness that was the hallmark of her interaction with the family. It doesn’t seem fair to recount the minute details, but suffice it to say that she’d prioritize the shine on a Mylar balloon over the emotional wellbeing of those she was supposed to love the most. Some of the most painful examples are the most petty. Like, really lady. What would it have cost you to let the seven year old win in that instance?
Which doesn’t seem to cure the sense of loss – perhaps as much for what she wasn’t as for what she was. It carries on, this feeling that where there is supposed to be something, there is nothing. And that nothing is pretty chilly.