mother’s day and a one-year-old

May 6 to May 14, it’s been a full week.

First, Giles turned one whole year old. I cannot really believe that it’s been a year since that long 30 hour experience of giving birth. It felt so endless that it seems impossible that I am not still in the hospital room, pushing and pushing and pushing. I can no longer remember the exact feeling of the pain, but I remember my reactions to it. My body has changed many times. Presently: my breasts are empty which is a strange feeling, my tummy is soft with less wrinkles and a bit of strength underneath, my arms are strong from lifting a growing baby, my linea negra is still faintly there and stretch marks too. I am smaller, stronger, more able and better feeling. I do not “have my body back” because that is not a real thing. I have my new mom body, which still changes every couple weeks, but has finally become something I understand (I think).

Giles has changed too. He is standing, crawling, walking while holding onto something. He laughs, chatters in baby talk, says “mama” and “dada” and something that almost sounds like “ball.” He has personality, likes and dislikes, a sense of humor. He loves to dance. He eats almost everything we give him, though he has preferences depending on the day. He has friends. He is more than three times the size he was at birth.

And now, at one week past his birthday, it is Mother’s Day. Last year we spent the holiday in the hospital with 2 day old Giles, still so new, learning how to breastfeed. Now I am done breastfeeding. Now I am a mother on my second Mother’s Day and the fifth Mother’s Day without my own mom.

It’s a complicated day. “Complicated AF” as my friend Ashley says. So true. I am so happy, so full of joy to celebrate being Giles’ mom. And then there is this hole, this cold feeling, tears behind my eyes and knots in my stomach. I miss my mom. I want to make her a card, talk to her, dance with her, help her in the garden or do whatever other chores she wants me to do. I want to have brunch with her and Giles, make waffles in her kitchen, watch her hold him and play with him and talk to him in Spanish.

There’s a lot of things I want but can’t even say.

There’s an envelope in my jewelry box (my mom’s jewelry box which is now mine). It’s a letter from Mama, for me to read when I had a child (or didn’t). I read that letter as soon as I found out I was pregnant, and a few more times since then. I haven’t read it today yet.

Greg and Giles brought me breakfast in bed and the sweetest card. They gave me a truly great Mother’s Day. I also have to make room for the sadness. Joy and grief live together now and always will.

 

today my mom would be 58

Today my mom would be 58.

Today my baby is 4 months old.

Today I am drinking coffee, cuddling Giles, having feelings. It’s not okay that she’s dead. It’s not okay that she isn’t here to be a grandmother to Giles (Meme, as she wanted to be called), and to help me paint and arrange my first house, to see Phoebe’s land and paint there, to make her art, dance in the kitchen, roast chiles, take walks, ride her bike, talk loud and fast, to “bricolage” her way through years and years. It’s not okay that she’s not getting older.

Giles just wailed for about an hour. Full on scream-crying and nothing I could do calmed him down. I looked him in the eyes as tears poured down his little face. I feel like wailing. I feel like scream-crying out of my broken heart.

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From my mom’s blog, vimorpainter.wordpress.com (which you should check out if you miss her, because her words are there, her voice, some little piece of herself, and you can visit it anytime):

Sketch Yourself in Words, 2007
My name is Viola Rose Moriarty. It’s not the name I was born with—except the Viola part, that’s my grandmother’s name that died long before I came into this world. The rest of my name I chose myself after a brief, failed young marriage in college. I didn’t want my husband’s name, but I had no name to go back to since my father had been absent from my life since I was six years old and my mother had remarried with a new name. I didn’t know who to be so I chose my favorite literary character, Dean Moriarty from Kerouac’s On the Road. And in a small Denver courtroom, for the reasonable price of thirty-two dollars I started to become the person I am now.
I am bilingual, an artist, a retired educator, a parent, a lover, a friend, a palm reader, a lifelong learner and a wife. I have loved my adult life, seizing the majority of days with pure abandon, humor, moxie and chutzpah.
When I was diagnosed with cancer I began to work it into the mix: the surgeries, the appointments, the emotions—all with help from my therapist, family, friends and most of all, from my husband.
People usually see the upbeat and adventurous and creative side of me. It’s only Jon who knows the skid marks and scars underneath, the billion ways I’m afraid. That I’m an enigma.
So, I did pretty well through the first wave of cancer, drafting my comic book The Adventures of My Left Breast and making paper dolls with new hospital gown designs. I took photos of everything and I saw myself doing pretty well in those pictures.
Then I went to chemotherapy. First day: Treatment okay. I sketched through it. Second day: Jittery but okay. Days three, four and five I have descended into a staticky evil fog filled hell that I can never adequately describe. Like trying to pay attention through a vibrational band of intense, angry static. Everything hurts. Reading and listening are so hard—so, so hard. I’ve never felt anything like this and I don’t feel strong enough to cope with it. It’s day six now and I’m a little better, but still unable to go to drawing tonight. I’m still unable to focus enough to get my art supplies set up and begin a painting.
I’ve got to grab onto something that will break through here—a different way to work these days. Come on, help me out Max Ernst, David Park, Alice Neel, Mr. Rauchenburg—–anybody? I pray to the dead and to the live painters to help me….help me work.
I have raised my girls and they are spectacular—they’ll be home to help me with my haircutting soon. I want them to see me able to do this; I want to be a good role model. I want them to see me work when working feels impossible.
I don’t want my daughters to ever suspect the terror of being separated from one’s own self.
I don’t want my husband to see me defeated in this way, bumbling about like a babosa instead of the sexy, arrogant, often insane woman he loves (and slightly fears).
But this is where cancer—no, not cancer, but the treatment of cancer—-has me by the breasts and by the balls, so to speak. It’s taken over the airways and it’s screaming at fever pitch. Static and black chaos are filling the room around me, slurping into and over the rims of my eyeballs and nose and around my fingernails.
There’s no escape……and I have never, ever learned how to surrender. 

Viola Moriarty, April 2007, After Chemo #1,
(From an assignment in the Moving through Breast Cancer class with Anastasia Nute)

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ten years (technically eleven?)

Reflecting on the past decade of my life, as I prepare to turn 31 in a month and a half, and I felt the need to put photos of myself from each year next to each other. In some ways I think my face looks the same, and in other ways it looks totally different. Internally, I changed a lot during these years and it’s interesting to see how that affected me externally.

I’m not exactly sure why I need to do this. But it feels necessary somehow. Who was I then? Who am I now? What changed from 27 to 28, when I lost my mom and also fell in love with Greg? Why is this first adult decade so important? As I go from “young woman” to “regular adult/mom” there’s this desire to look back and remember who I have been so far and how I got here.

Me, ages twenty to thirty:

20:
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21:
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22:
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23:
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24:
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25:
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26:
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27:
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28:
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29:
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30:
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chile pepper drawings

pepper drawings I drew these on September 9 for my sister’s birthday (and also in honor of out mom’s birthday which was September 6). The one on the left is watercolor, on the right is pen.

I love the small of roasting peppers, it smells like fall and it smells like home. I roasted these after drawing them. Happy birthday Phoebe, Happy birthday Mama.

My mom’s 56th birthday

It’s unfair that my mom is not turning 56 today. It’s stupid and sad and dumb. I hate that she will never be more than 54. She would have been really good at being old– the coolest, most kickass, cowgirl boot wearing old lady on the planet.

I don’t really know what else to say about it, but here I am drinking a big latte (“Give me the biggest latte you have,” is how my mom often ordered at coffee shops) and I don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of the day. I will probably do some drawing. Maybe see a movie. Have a really good dinner.

My mom was really good at birthdays. In our family we have the tradition of waking up the birthday person really early by singing happy birthday and bringing them breakfast in bed. I used to lie awake on my birthday morning, pretending to still be asleep, listening for that soft singing coming from down the hall..

Mama’s favorite breakfast was bacon (extra crispy), orange juice, and coffee.

My sister was born three days after my mom’s birthday in 1987. I was two and have vague shadow memories of the day which could just be impressions left by people telling me the story so many times. But I was there, running around the hospital room in my pink converse sneakers, holding the doll they gave me (Linda Lou) so that I had a baby too. “Mommy, let’s leave our babies here and go home now,” I have been reported as saying. Mama always called Phoebe the best birthday present she ever got.

I wish I could take my sister out for wine and chocolate today. I wish we could play cards and laugh and cry together and listen to the mountain sounds and watch our mom paint the sunset. But since we’re on opposite sides of the world right now, I’ll reach my arms out and we’ll hold the whole world and Mama will be the sky and all the people that love her will be part of it and we’ll all eat green chile and homemade tortillas and sing Long Black Veil. We’ll ask, “Do you want to have something or do something,” and she’ll reply “do something” so we’ll go to the movies or climb a mountain and dance all night drinking red wine (dry and cheap) or tequila (never waste good tequila) wearing skeleton dresses and long earrings and cowgirl boots (of course). We’ll wear straw hats and paint outside (en plein air). We’ll pop popcorn and each have our own bowls and paint our toenails and watch the Alice Neel documentary.

We’ll keep living and keep having birthdays and it’ll never be as good without her but we go on anyway. We’ll do the things we love. We’ll make our lives what we want them to be and use our own brains.

I love you Mama. Happy birthday.