After a long afternoon out yesterday, Arddun and I were drowsing on the couch before her dinner time – she, in the crook of my right arm snuggled under the covers and quietly monologuing to herself while I did a quick surf on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed listings.
It was a harmless enough exercise – flicked through a couple of writer’s blogs, and then came across a post entitled Dear Mom. It was a long one. And for about 95% of it, I was okay. It was personal, it was honest, it was intimate, and it talked about things I didn’t always understand without context.
But then I came across this paragraph –
I feel you especially profoundly today, our shared birthday. I am now 36. You would have turned 57 today, if only you hadn’t stopped breathing at 52.
And then something inside me broke. Tears spilled. And before I knew it, I was crying in front of my toddler.
I think I’d always made a subconscious effort not to grieve in front of Arddun so as not to alarm her unnecessarily. I had been a bit of a sobbing wreck when we did the walk behind the hearse, but had pulled myself together by the time of the cremation and the funeral service. I hadn’t cried at the eulogy. I think all of us in the family were determined to give my mother that hearty farewell, that celebration of life, that true homecoming feeling. And when I did cave in to the heartrending pain, it was usually in the dead of night, right in the gray between wake and sleep, where man and child were deep in slumber and I was by myself for that while. And I got pretty good at crying silently, mouth curled in a silent scream.
Grieving can be such a private thing, which is an ironic thing to say since I’ve now gone and blogged about the process. But back to my original point – I think I’d always determined not to let Arddun see me cry. At least, not at this age. So it was really quite alarming yesterday when I read that paragraph and the dam broke and I was utterly unprepared.
She noticed the shift in the air immediately, and sat up. She stared at my tears, which were pouring out my eyes faster than I could wipe them. I contemplated running out of the room, but there was the logistical challenge of removing myself quickly (shifty pelvis, big belly, lumberous frame). I was also now conflicted: should my daughter learn that grown up girls cry too, and that it’s not a thing to be ashamed of?
“Are you okay?” she asked eventually, evenly. Her eyes were big, and I made myself look straight into them. They were searching mine in return, trying to comprehend. I was glad to see she wasn’t freaked out, just genuinely curious and understandably concerned.
“Why are you crying, Mummy?”
“Because I was thinking of Grandma. I miss Grandma.”
She tried to sit on my lap, which is rapidly shrinking as the days pass us by, so she soon gave up and got off the couch entirely. Then she walked over to the other couch and pulled a tissue out of the box. She handed it to me wordlessly.
“Thank you,” I smiled. The smile was still watery, but at least I was now distracted.
She crawled back into the couch and resettled herself in the crook of my right arm. And then she placed her tiny left hand over my right. And just left it there, in companionable silence. And the richness of that – the realisation that my girl has empathy in spades, and such an instinct for comforting others. The warmth of that solidarity, if I could call it that. The sudden, visceral yearning for a camera so I could take a snapshot of that little hand over mine.
I fumbled around for my mobile. And as if reading my mind, she asked me to take a bunch of selfies.
And so we did. And gradually the ache dulled, and the calm returned, and with it the smiles.