I am crying as I type these words.
I have shed many tears over the past ten years to the day since my dear mother left this world.
I have cried because something more special than the earth I am hopelessly stuck to, or the air that I breathe, was taken from me.
I have cried because I had nowhere else to turn to for guidance.
I have cried into the immediate surroundings from my lips, eyes and mouth to the outer reaches of space for the chance for one more embrace--to just put her fat, red hand in my fat red hand and squeeze them warmly together.
I have cried for sheer guilt that I was too selfish to show that I could exist without a bottle in my fat, red hand.
I have cried because the art that I have made will never again have her eyes slowly and excitedly ingest and caress from the outer edges of the paper inside towards the words or scribbled picture, or the first plucked strings, hummed melody or residual applause that might follow.
I have cried for knowing that the love I have found in Jodi must grow without her knowledge or relief--relief that the man she knew was always inside finally and furiously emerged from the shell of a pained and terrified life he was living, bursting into the real and the new, pulling back the drapes, throwing open the windows and screaming until he could scream no longer, falling onto the floor in a heap of fat, bones, muscle and blood and panting the words "I have found a true love" to the blue-grey walls around him.
That's not to say that I don't cry for sad commercials, too. Because I do. And my mom did, too. She always had a box of tissues nearby just for such occasions.
But I remember when she had a small, non-life-threatening cancer removed from the corner of one eye. They didn't fix her up exactly the way they should have. In the spot where they took the little piece off tears would spill out at random moments. She had it fixed, of course, but it was hard to watch this woman who cried so much for so many things in a seemingly perpetual state of emotion at any given time of day.
I can only imagine how many, many times she cried for me--because of me--as she sat, or walked, or talked with my aunt, or laid down in her bed a mere 75 miles away from "her boy". I'm sure it was less than I imagine, but from where I see things the past is often darker and stormier than it really was.
I put that poor woman through hell and I have no excuse for it.
But that book is one I keep on the shelf for safety and security. I don't need to re-read it. I've got it pretty well memorized.
But ten years ago, on January 11, 2007 at 10:20am, Judith Ann Johnson's energy left her body.
She had fought a valiant battle with pancreatic cancer--one of the worst and most vicious types--and finally let go.
She let go of the pain and the suffering.
She let go of the uneaten, pureed meals left sitting on the tray, the ice water in the squeeze bottle and the IV, the hospital socks and gown.
She let go of the emotional visits from her son and her sister.
Oh, how I wish I could have one more chance to put my bearded, bloated cheek up against her lips for even the faintest of kisses. How I wish I could lay my head on her belly and my arm across her body and just for a few moments pretend we could die together. Just leave the messy, dilapidated house and the unplowed driveway and the legal documents behind and just . . . go.
Oh, how I wish.
But I am here and I am well.
I am here and I have love.
I am here and I am continuing her legacy of making others happy.
I am here and I have her hair on my head, her tics in my eyes, her fat, red hands on the end of my arms and her seemingly limitless ability to remain hopeful that the sun will shine again even in the darkest night.
I am here and I am still crying as I write these words.
Because I am alive and I am breathing and I am hungry and I have love in my heart and I have music in my soul.
And I am able to share this little bit of me with the world--and every little bit of me has a little bit of her inside.
And she is crying, too.
But she's not worried anymore.
No, she's crying because she is happy.
I can almost hear it.
Thanks for reading.
I love you all, but especially Jodi.
Dedicated to Judith Ann Johnson
May 14, 1941-Jan 11, 2007