It’s not like I remembered.
That’s what I kept thinking as I sat with my family going through old pictures. I’d seen the photographs a hundred times but this time I was seeing details that I’d never noticed before. Art on a wall, a book on a table, a tree in the background…
I drove down the street of our childhood home. The old house was torn down long ago but I have memories of the new house too. The house on Simmons. That phrase kept coming up in conversation as though the street was its own habitat or a moon orbiting a world that everyone else lived in but us. The road used to seem so long when I was a kid and now it didn’t. The houses were closer together, the yards smaller. It’s not like I remembered.
I got to see a video of my sister’s wedding from 1991. It was such a tumultuous time in my life. I was a mess inside, suffering from anxiety attacks and night terrors. I was in college at the time and I barely made it to class most days. I was so surprised to see how happy, pretty and normal I looked. It’s not like I remembered.
The week leading up to my sister’s memorial was full. I kept wondering how I could be so sad and so peaceful at the same time. Those feelings were oddly compatible in the shadow of my sister’s death. I felt surprisingly detached from the sadness of the past. It was all from the here and now. The kind of sadness that comes from holding space for the grief of others more than my own.
The memorial was at my mom’s house. I drove separately from my husband and kids in case I wanted to stay longer. As I approached my mom’s street, I had a sudden urge to keep driving. Maybe I could go to a bookstore or just sit alone in a parking lot. Anywhere but there. I knew I had to go but the feeling to run took me by surprise.
My siblings have a different father and there were a lot of cousins from their side of the family that I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. I laughed at how some of them went up to my 23 year old niece and thought she was me. I’m 44 years old! I guess I’m frozen in their memories as a young girl. Not that I’m complaining.
I didn’t realize until the day after the memorial that I’d given myself a deadline. I subconsciously told myself that life would get back to “normal” after the day was over. I wouldn’t feel so sad anymore. I’d start cooking dinner again and want to read to my kids. I’d walk the dog and the heaviness would dissipate. I didn’t realize that I’d set an imaginary deadline until I found myself getting angry. Angry that life is supposed to move on now but I’m just beginning to grieve. The plans and preparations kept me busy last week and now that’s over.
I’m not angry today. Just weepy. If I didn’t watch the news I’d never know that hurricane Odile is making its way up the Baja peninsula and is set to drench southern Arizona by Wednesday. How fitting. After the downpour the night of my sister’s death, storms will forever be linked with her memory. I’m prepared to ride it out and go with the flow. To keep safe but not resist.