I wasn’t born an orphan, but I identify as one.
My mom died almost three years ago from a severe asthma attack that made her heart stop. She was taking the medicine prescribed to her via her nebulizer machine, but it wasn’t enough. Her lungs collapsed. Her heart went into overdrive to try to help her breathe, but failed. She had a heart attack and collapsed on our living room floor on a Monday night.
I was in my dorm room at my university, two hours away from home, when a friend asked me if an ambulance was at my house. I thought surely not, but I’d call just to see if my family knew what was going on.
I called home to find my mom’s boyfriend crying as he told me the news. I remember having to call my sister and tell her that our mom had died. I couldn’t put it in to words. I don’t remember much of what happened, but apparently I was screaming in my dorm room. Someone alerted the House Fellow, and I cried on her shoulder for I don’t remember how long.
That was the longest night of my life. Hours later, I made it home, but my mom’s body was already gone. I remembering bawling as soon as I saw my little brothers. They lived through my mom collapsing, the 911 call, the EMTs trying to resuscitate her on our dining room floor. They were there when the EMTs realized there was nothing else they could do… When they announced her dead. When they took her body away. My little brothers were there for hours alone until my sister and I could make it home. To this day, we have never talked about that experience, and I’m afraid to ask.
I never expected to lose my mom at 19 years old… who would? But as a result, I know grief well. I learned to befriend it as I spent summer nights laying centerfield in the baseball diamond in my hometown, trying to feel something. I found connection with the ground as I stared up to the mystery of the sky. I spent a lot of time in that diamond and even on basketball courts, in the middle of roads, in ditches, on roofs, and wherever I could lay down, ground myself, and try to feel… try to find peace.
The other day I saw a picture of my mom, and it felt like I was looking at a stranger. When this feeling set in, my heart just shattered. I always saw this woman as my mom, but in that picture, I realized there was so much more to her, so much more that I didn’t know.
I saw a young girl, smiling ear-to-ear alongside the comfort of her own mom. She had hopes and dreams and fears. She was beautiful and she didn’t even know it. She could have been my best friend at that age.
I saw a beautiful, young adult woman with opinions and beliefs and little quirks. She was happy, but also sad, trying to navigate the world as a twenty-something. I felt like I could relate to her just by the look in her eyes and her hesitant smile. I wanted to know her story… But I knew that would never be possible.
I lost my mom before I could become an adult and appreciate every story she told and everything she ever did for me. Everyone knows the feeling of leaving home, growing up and out of those teenage years, and finally being able to bond with your mother (or father).
I had only the tiniest taste of that, and then my mother was taken from me.
A lot of people forget or don’t even know that I’m an “orphan”. This is probably because you will never hear me complain or mention my daily struggles related to not having living parents, even though I have no one to truly depend on. Sure I definitely have an awesome support system of friends and family, but I am the last person to ask for help.
This means I pay for all of my bills on my own, without even the security of having a parent to back me up in case of emergency. I have to file my own taxes, financial aid, and every other form of paperwork that most people my age just hand over to their parents. I’m not able to be on my parent’s healthcare. I have to make all big life decisions on my own. People my age go to their parents for all sorts of life advice, because you can always rely on your parents to help you make the right decision. I have to ask my friends’ parents for advice when it comes to silly things like cooking or big things like car shopping. I’m very appreciative for the help; it’s just not the same feeling receiving it from someone else’s mom or dad. I didn’t realize how much my Mom helped me through life, until I lost her.
When I lost my mom, I also lost my “home”. My house still exists, but I became unwelcome. My mom’s boyfriend lives there with his new girlfriend, and also my younger brother, until he can graduate high school. The saddest thing is figuring out who will let me crash on their couch when I have to go to my home area overnight. I can’t get away from college and relax at ‘Mom and Dad’s’ for the weekend. I don’t get home cooked meals, and lord knows I can’t cook. Where do I go for the holidays? Good question. I usually work, and celebrate later with my siblings by having a little dinner we throw together. There isn’t a big Thanksgiving celebration, where my mom makes a grand feast and we all are “home for the holidays”.
Plus, calling home to mom or dad when you’ve had a ridiculously stressful day can make everything better. It’s so calming and comforting, right? I miss that. I miss everything that I lost and everything I will never have.
I’m never going to have a father to walk me down the aisle or a mother who will go wedding dress shopping with me and use an entire box of tissues during my wedding ceremony. My children won’t have grandparents from their mom’s side of the family. They’ll never know my mom, and how much she would have loved them.
I get really jealous when people talk about their mom or dad in their life. My mom was my rock, but honestly, I’m fine 29 out of every 30 days. Sometimes I get mad at myself because I’m fine for those 29 days and that must mean I don’t miss my mom. On the flipside, that 1 day a month that I break down, I’m even mad at myself then. I think what’s the point of crying over this? It’s not going to change anything.
I hope this doesn’t come across as complaining, because I’m just full acknowledging my loss tonight. I’m just missing my mom.
I know that my life isn’t bad. I am very privileged, and I live a good life surrounded by kind friends and family who help me in so many ways. I could never be thankful enough for all of the great people in my life. That said, there’s still just a beautiful, powerful connection between parent and child, and I’m just missing that and wishing I had that on days like today.
Even though today is that 1 day of the month where I break down, I’m even quite alright right now. Writing is therapy. I’ll always be alright. My momma raised me right, I’ve got amazing friends and family, and SOME MAD HOPE.
Just one of these kind of days * listen *
PS: If you’ve been reading this post and you’re wondering, where is this girl’s dad?!
My dad walked out when I was a baby. I’ve met him a few times, and I could tell you where he lives even. He’s actually my Facebook friend, but his “Happy Birthday!” post on my wall, will tell you enough about our relationship. He’s never felt like my dad. He’s more like one of those strangers where you accept their friend request only because you’re curious, with the intention of deleting later. Except of course, you forget to delete, and you think, eh it’s doing me no harm being their “friend”.
So to sum it up: He is not a party of my story.