Yesterday, we lost Troy's mom. Carolyn. It's just not fair.
I'll miss her so much. I miss her already.
I ignored the signs. I think I chose not to notice how tired she looked before Christmas when we were down. How her voice was getting smaller on the phone. I don't think I wanted to notice.
This weekend went from 'She's not doing so well, maybe you should come down', to arriving at the hospital, shocked at her smallness, her exhaustion, realizing suddenly she wasn't in the hospital just facing a setback.
She looked at Max, lighting up, excited to see him, 'Max!'. She glanced to Seth, unsure in the chair by her bed, attempting, like his mom, to process this. Then she fell back to sleep. I'm sure he and Thane were thinking the same thing, told this was their grandmother and searching to recognize her in this cancer shell.
Once this year she told me about something she had read that she found so poignant. That the most important thing you could do as a parent would be for your face to light up everytime your child came into the room.
Carolyn did that.
I shuffled the kids around for a few days, attempting to keep them quiet in the midst of the stress. Not that anyone but me cared about their noise. Taking them to my sisters for the night, wanting to be at the hospital with Troy and his family, needing to be with the kids, ultimately meeting my parents in Moncton to take the kids back to NB.
I dropped them off and rushed back to NS, just wanting to be there. Not sure why. Just wanting to be there, somehow recapture lost time, let her know how much I love her, how much she means to me.
My sister in law, Kaylea, quoted,
"When I'm weak and unpretty I know I'm beautiful and strong. Because, I see myself like my mother does."
Kaylea does know she's beautiful and strong, always. Carolyn did that. I hope I can do that for Claire, for my boys. Carolyn mothered me too, wanting me to know this. She placed many of the foundation stones for what I hope to be as a mother.
When I entered their life just 10 years ago, Carolyn literally opened her arms wide, along with Laurie, welcoming me into their lives. Just after Troy told his parents we were expecting Thane, I opened my little apartment door to Carolyn and Laurie, her hugging me tight, offering her warm and genuine reassurance that I was loved and we were supported.
She's been our biggest cheerleader, eager to hear the kids news, the receiver at the end of the line when someone has learned to use the potty, arriving at my doorstep to collect children when I have the flu, listening and problem solving when I don't know what to do, mad at the class bully with me. She listens and listens, even helping me decipher Troy at times.
Realizing that not so many are lucky enough to have an amazing mother in law like I do, I told her once that someday I hope I can be a great mother-in-law like her. She told me, carefully putting her sentence together, that it takes biting your tongue sometimes. It made me laugh. I hope I can someday be half as patient and supportive.
I arrived at the hospital, filling with dread, alone now, the kids taken care of, ready to join everyone else. And I know I'm already too late, she's been having a hard time breathing, the others have been watching, breathing with her ardously all day, waiting for the next inhale. Even if she's still with us I'm too late.
I step off the elevator, and by Kaylea's face I know. She's gone.
What do you do? We're here, and she's not. I see her slippers and cry. I think about the kids and what they don't even know they've lost and cry. I look at the people who have known her four times longer than I, the grown kids who have lost their mom, her brothers, the sister in laws who have lost a best friend. My father in law. And I cry some more.
We watch a funny Ellen clip, where an actress describes having to be between 3 and 7 on the emotional scale to not be crying. Troy looks at me and winks.
Then you do some laundry, wash dishes, keep busy. You talk about her, about good memories, funny things, remembering. You chat about other things completely, try not to talk about it at all. Answer the phone, relay information, explain, accept condolences. Or eat some more of the food bursting out of the kitchen.
I try to read. The kind maids in the book I'm reading, The Help, who know how to love little ones so well, they remind me of Carolyn. I'm pissed that the kids are going to miss out on having her in their lives.
Family buoys family. We drink, we laugh, we eat. The company is warm, comforting.
It's shitty. It's not fair. I want her to be okay, and be here with us.
She told me last year she wasn't afraid to die. She recounted a story while we drove by the river, watching the sun set. It was about a baby dragonfly, a larvae that lives underwater. The baby dragonflies would look through the water to the sky and one asked the other, if you ever get above this water you have to come back and tell me what it's like. Except of course when the first one grew up, he was a dragonfly, and he couldn't go back underwater to tell his friend about where he was.
All I could think was that I wanted her to stay here in the water with us.