I am laying in bed. The clock has been ticking every second and it is now officially three (almost four) hours past the time I originally should have closed my eyes and drifted into a state of dreams. The dogs are asleep. Jason is snoring, the television is on but on a blank screen… at least it is now. I’ve watched movies, fumbled with my Kindle and periodically look to see if there is anything new on Facebook… nothing. It seems everyone has fallen into a peaceful slumber except for me.
I have battled tears running across the bridge of my nose as I toss side to side. I have screamed silently within my head for just an ounce of quiet yet, the thoughts just keep running over and over in my mind with one major question attached. What if?
What if this day had never happened 33 years ago today? Would I be the person I am today? Would I be fighting the demons I fight now? Would it have been for the better or for the worse? Of course these are questions that will never be answered. Yet, they haunt me on this day, year after year, for the past 33 years. They will haunt me further, year after year, they will be with me.
I was thirteen years old. Just a mere seven months away from my 14th birthday. The day that could have been a major game changer in my life. I would have legally had the right to choose which parent I wanted to live with. A family secret that my grandmother had accidentally let slip out.
Since I had come from a less than happy childhood, I desperately knew the choice to make. I would meet her – my mother. I would be in paradise and all the ills of the world would fall away. She would show me what I had always longed for… unconditional love.
Thirty-three years ago, I was called home.I had been in the neighborhood woods with my best friend and fellow troublemaker, Teresa McDuffy. Dad had something he wanted to tell me. As if nothing were out of sorts, he simply stated “Your mother died.” My entire world turned black… My lifelong dream had died. He followed up the brutal statement with an even more brutal comment, as if a demand, “You never knew her, you don’t have to cry.” The words forever scarred into my ears and I can never forget them.
I slowly walked back to the woods, tears streaming down my face. Luckily, Teresa had already left for home or somewhere to smile, laugh and continue with her life. I dug our stash of cigarettes from the ground and took one from the plastic sandwich bag and choked in deep into my lungs. My dream had died.
I acted stoic, nothing could penetrate my armor, yet, I was far from dodging the bullets that were tossed around the house. Finally, I spoke up and asked if I could go to the funeral. My father said yes… I was glad for that. At least I would get to see my brother that had left a decade before, meet the other side of my family and perhaps see what she looked like. But, days passed and nothing was mentioned, no arrangements were made for me to travel to Wisconsin, nor anywhere else. It was just a way to hush me at the moment.
It’s been 33 years and I sit here as if still a 13 year old child, as I do every year and recount the vision of dad fumbling through the mail telling me the shattering news. Same puffy and reddened eyes, same tears, same snotty nose. The only difference is, today, I have a soft pillow to drowned the sorrow instead of the dirt surrounded by the Georgia Pines.
I know her energy is scattered through the Universe and that brings me comfort, for one day mine will too. I learned her battle with brain cancer was long and hard fought and she mentioned me often. I don’t know if my brother just said this to make me feel better or whether it was true, but supposedly, she cried every year on my birthday.
I may have never know you in real life, but in my heart and mind, you were a perfect mother Nancy Ann (Cordio) Reise.