Eighteen years ago on February 9th, 1997, I was a bratty seventeen year old girl. I knew everything, couldn't wait to grow up and be on my own and didn't need my parents. One day later, the wind was taken out of my sails and I realized just how very wrong I was.
We never stop needing our parents. It doesn't matter if we are in our 60s-70s when our parents die. It will hurt just as bad.
February 10th, 1997 was the day my mother died from a violent strain of pneumonia. In the two weeks she had been hospitalized I was the one saying 'It's 1997, people don't die from pneumonia anymore.' Remember when I said I was a teenager who knew it all? Yea. I was certain of my knowledge of health care. But, again, I was super wrong. My mother died from pneumonia in the late '90s. Apparently, it happens.
It is crazy to me that there are memories in my life that are hazy sepia toned images that I can only remember bits and pieces off. The edges are torn and frayed, the image is fading. But, that day I remember as clear and as vividly as if I was living it right now. It was my day off from school because it was a holiday (Lincoln's birthday or President's day, I don't remember that part). It was super sunny. I remember very blue skies. I remember the sweatsuit my dad was wearing because he was sick. I remember the sound of the phone ringing as my stepdad called from the hospital with an update ... or was it my stepmom. I didn't answer the phone so the details of that call aren't in my head. My dad was perched on the edge of the porch chair when I heard him say "She's gone?"
Something clicked in me then and I walked past him, walking briskly to get away. Where was I going? I don't know but I wanted to get away from what was coming. My mother's friend grabbed me and hugged me to her and I heard her say those life altering words to my mother's other friend. "Pat died." How clearly I hear her voice. How those words often echo in my head right next to my Nana telling me that "Daddy's gone." My world flipped on its head and broke apart.
Gone was the smart mouthed 17 year old. In her place was a screaming toddler yelling for her Mommy. My heart still breaks at the memory. It's as sharp as the first moment. Time doesn't dull the blade of this type of pain.
My mother and I were not close as far as mothers and daughters go. Like I've said a few times in this entry, I was a smart aleck, I thought I knew how the world worked. We fought like cats and dogs, we were like oil and water. She was highly critical of me and I was as deserving of those critiques as anyone. But, we fought. We fought up until her very last day. Her very last words to me called me a name I will never forget and I can't ever let that go. I deserved every syllable of that word so don't take it as something my mother did wrong. I owned that word because looking back ... I was everything she said I was.
As time passes, I wish more and more I could have done things differently. Eighteen years is a long time. I find that I can't recall the sound of her voice. I don't remember what she sounded like. I can see her in my head, shiny black hair, green eyes. Her reebok shoes, blue jeans, Jovan Musk cologne that she wore because she was allergic to perfume. Her kooky earrings she often wore for every holiday. The way she sat on the cough with the phone cord wrapped around her finger, bouncing her leg while she talked on the phone. Her nails were always filed to a point and painted, always painted. She washed her face with Noxema and never farted around anyone. But, she still found them funny. I went in to say goodnight to her once and she had farted in the bathroom. I made a face and I just remember her laughing to the point of tears.
Oh yea, she did that too. Sometimes, I think that is the only part of my mother that I got. When I get to laughing about something, there is no stopping me until the tears are spilling down my face and even then ... it doesn't stop. My dad did that too though so I have double the laughing problems.
I wish I could have learned a few things about being a woman from her. I never properly learned to cook, or clean very adequately for that matter. (No, I don't live in filth, I just feel like I could be a lot better at it) I wish I could have learned about my family, about my heritage.
I can't believe it's been eighteen years already. If I had a child the day my mother died, he/she would be entering into their adult life now. Just one year older than I was when my mother died. No more wiser at eighteen than I thought I was at seventeen. In fact, a lot less wise than I thought I was. Humbled by the harsh reality that life doesn't go on. People die and will continue to die. My picturesque childhood began to crumble on February 10th, 1997. Things I never knew because I had been too young to know started to become clear and real life started.
Anyway, people often ask if we could go back in time to any point in our lives. Well, I would go to any day before January 12th, 1997. It would be before the big fight with my mother where we would literally speak our last words to each other. It wasn't much after that when she got sick and was down for a few days at home before being hospitalized. I never turned the dreaded age of 17. Back then, I couldn't wait to be 17. It was an age I idolized since childhood. I wasn't aware of the nightmare that being 17 would be.
I'd give anything to go back to a time when both my parents were alive and my entire family was intact. My brothers were little, my family was together and I didn't have all this damn responsibility, no cancer, no Wegener's, no mortgage. It was the best time in my life contrary to what teenaged Nikki thought.
If I had a time machine, that's where I would go. At least then I could hear my parents voices and remember what they sounded like. I could look in their light eyes and wonder why I never got light eyes when both of my parents had hazel or green eyes. I could hear my father laugh and sound like he was a deflating tire. I could hear my mother's voice saying my name and not in an angry way. I could see them actually looking back at me from inside .. not the blank stare I see when I look into photographs.
Eighteen years ... and it still destroys me to think about it.
I miss you, Mom. I wish I could tell you how sorry I was for how I acted. I was really stupid. I learned that right away ... but I know it even more now. I love you and I haven't for a moment forgot you. I just can't "hear" you. I hope wherever you are now, you are happy again. Are you with your parents? Have you seen Dad?
Questions there will never be answers to. What're ya going to do?