As the full heat of summer hits New York, I find myself feeling lethargic and sad. I’ve been anticipating nice weather ever since Governor Cuomo shut the state down in mid March, but now that it’s here, I can barely muster any feeling other than apathy.
I miss the summers that were filled with little girl things — pink swimsuits, sand castles, sidewalk chalk, and bubbles. My younger daughter is now 16 and, though we’re very close, I can practically feel her looking forward, to a future far away from this too-big quarantined house where she should be holed up with her sister, but instead she’s stuck with her middle-aged, soulsick parents.
Is there such a thing as anticipatory loneliness or is this just grief, coming back to haunt me?
My older daughter, Ana, would’ve turned 19 in spring, but she died three years ago. There’s no getting around it. This house feels like a prison.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m well beyond the early stages of grief. I have a manageable routine, spend tons of time with my husband and daughter, and the two dead ash trees at the edge of my yard are finally gone.
I’ve cobbled together a tolerable life since Ana died, so why can’t I stop thinking about the past?
I feel like I’m living two realities. I’m part of this new life with my family of three and I am functioning, even doing things I love. I’ve found a shred of peace in this new life. I love that the three of us picked up our broken pieces and remade our family (smaller, sadder, but still a family).
But I’m also dwelling in the past, yearning for the fullest days of motherhood when we were still four and I was stupidly, blissfully unaware of how terrible things were about to get.
I don’t want to be jealous of my old reality, because that road leads to misery. The more I dwell, the less I’m able to be part of this new life.
And yet, I keep having flashbacks of the girls from when they were little. I’ll be walking on a trail or filling the bird feeders in the yard and suddenly I recall Ana’s face at two or five or fifteen years old.
When it happens (and it’s been happening often) I want her here so badly that when I snap out of whatever fading memory I’ve conjured up, I’m left with a terrible aching emptiness. It’s an ache that’s uncomfortably familiar. I felt that ache for so many months as Ana was dying and it was my constant companion for the first year and a half (or so) after she died.
Maybe it’s the trauma associated with this virus, the not knowing if I’m going get sick or if someone I love is going get sick (or worse.)
Maybe it’s the protests and the pain and frustration associated with being part of a system that has utterly failed the black community — a system that’s digging its heels in, despite the atrocities that keep happening.
Maybe it’s the maddeningly repetitive days that feel endless and lonely and so very heavy.
Maybe it’s everything revealing what I was too distracted to recognize before the coronavirus lockdowns. I am a divided mother, split between my before and my after, partially severed from reality.
It’s going to be a long summer.