Sometimes there is a pain so deep you can't put your finger on it.
Does it hurt here? There? Show me where it hurts.
It hurts everywhere.
Stephanie has been on my mind today, or should I say yesterday, since it is after one o'clock in the morning? I've been thinking of the ways in which I failed her or the ways in which I could have, should have, been a better mother to her. It's so easy to fall prey to that trap of wondering, "What if I had -- ?" or "Should I have -- ?" Had I done those things, would she still be here?
People tend to say to me, "It was her time to go" or "She is in a better place." How do you know that? How do you know that it was her time? How do you know she is in a better place? What better place could she be in than in my arms? And yet, I think of a million little ways I failed her. Maybe I didn't deserve to be her mom. Maybe she deserved a better one.
After all, we had our moments in which we didn't connect. We had our spats, our disagreements, and our times of being at odds. We had times during which we didn't speak to each other, only to one day realize how much we missed each other. I remember waking up in the ICU in February 2007, and she was standing there. It had been months since I'd heard from her, but she burst into tears and said, "Mom? Are you going to be okay?" I recovered, but she continued to seem lost and adrift.
That last holiday season was bad in many ways. She hadn't yet come to grips with her alcoholism or with the ways in which her life was spinning out of control. Thanksgiving was particularly hard, because I knew she hadn't been eating well and was couch-hopping. I went out and bought two air mattresses so that both of my kids could stay the weekend with us (since her brother was living in a rented room near the college). As it turned out, she didn't want to stay, and so she went to sleep on the couch at her brother's place. At least I knew she was safe, warm, and looked after that night. My plans for a nice dinner were ruined, as she drank her way through it and ate little. My plans for cooking a nice breakfast for both of the kids were ruined, as they left late that Thanksgiving evening. I shed many tears that night.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I made it clear that she was welcome back for Christmas dinner if she promised not to drink her way through it. She made that promise but got into the rum in the cabinet while we were at Christmas Eve services at church (which she begged out of). Nevertheless, one thing I dd get to enjoy with her was one last shopping trip.
I had always said to my sister that one of the simple pleasures I'd always hoped to enjoy with my daughter was shopping. Sometimes I'd find myself tearing up when I'd see other mother/daughter pairs out buying school clothes or looking at jewelry. Stephanie rarely wanted to do that. So when she actually agreed to go shopping with me that holiday season, I was overjoyed! We wore ourselves completely out getting her a new black wool coat, gloves, shoes, pants, and shirts. We shopped at the mall and Kohl's, and we got a Starbucks coffee together. If I remember it right, we even spent some time at the book store, one of our favorite places. I returned home a little poorer in pocket but a whole lot richer in happiness. Simple things. That's what I wanted to have with her.
It was just before New Years when she agreed to go to AA. A friend drove her to her first meeting, and she helped with her first sober New Year's Eve dance. She continued going to the group, and she not only stayed sober (save for one night's relapse) but also became an inspiration for others to get and stay sober, as well.
Though Stephanie is gone and will never share another holiday meal with us, I still have Sean and will do everything I can to lavish him with love. He and I have always had an easy friendship and mother-son bond. He gives good hugs - everyone says so - and he is a practical, responsible young man. Because of his work responsibilities, we will have an early Thanksgiving together this year. He and his friend Travis will be flying in and staying for 5 days with Denise and I. We'll cook a turkey and all the trimmings, and we will be grateful for the time we have together. We'll be grateful for another holiday season.
It is said that the holidays are tough, because all emotions are magnified. The bad things in your life seem worse, and the good things seem magical. This season will be hard without my daughter, but I know that with my son around, I'll feel our bond all the more strongly.
The holidays are creeping up on us. I'm going to need all the strength I can get to get through them. Not a moment will go by that Steph is not in my thoughts, but maybe she really is in a better place - out of pain, out of temptation, but out of my reach.
Peace - D