Thanksgiving morning, I received a phone call from Chris's mom. I hadn't heard from her in almost two years. The call was a short exchange of small talk. "How are you?" "What's the weather like up there?" "How are you spending your Thanksgiving?" She asked about when I planned to visit OKC again. I told her I might be up at Christmas. She told me to say hello for her to my Mom and Dad. I didn't correct her. I realized that there was so much she didn't know. There's a lot that can happen in two years. She doesn't know that there is someone new in my life or how that someone comes with a child. She doesn't know that Dad is no longer with us. She doesn't know that we sold the family house or that mom has moved.
Her phone call surprised me, caught me off guard. It made all the air leave my body and my gut clench. I could feel the heat of tears building and I had to take a moment to collect myself. I know she meant no harm. She just wanted to remind me that she's still around. I don't know why the call would throw me so off balance. Maybe it's because it had been so long since I had heard from her. We never really did form a close bond. I see the relationship between my mom and sister-in-law and I know that I had nothing of the kind with Chris's mom. Sure there are times my mom and sister-in-law don't see eye to eye, but there has never been a time when I didn't think that Mom saw Katrina as one of her own. There is a love and warmth between them that I never found with Chris's mom. The nice things I tried to do for her over the years seemed to always be met with disappointment and a lack of gratitude and over time I just stopped trying. When Chris died, I stopped pretending to try.
I didn't know what to say to her or what not to say to her when she called. I still have a difficult time telling those who were closest to Chris that I am happy now. I love and I'm in love and my life is good. My life is good. Those words stuck like cold oatmeal in my throat while I was on the phone with her. I could not confide with her or share with her that this life is good. I could not tell her that I have not moved on, but I have moved forward. All I could muster was casual chit chat. "Things are fine." "Yes, I'm still working." "No snow here, but the weather has been really cold." This life is good, but there are times I can't shake the feeling I'm being haunted. There are times when I want to beg Chris to stay and times when I want to scream at him to just leave me alone. Maybe if our life together had been awful. Maybe if my memories of our time together didn't make me smile and my heart fill with joy. All of this would be easier? What is easier?
I made a mistake in my youth by not falling in love with many boys, by not falling in love with at least more than one boy before Chris. My mistake was to never have my heart broken, to never get a taste for what it might be like to lose the one you love before losing the one you love. There was no practice and therefore I bring to this table inexperience. I stammer and stutter over how to talk about my past. I stall and evade when I talk to people from my past. I almost didn't even mention the call to Michael. He asked me if I was alright, I replied that I was fine. Michael said that he knew what "fine" meant. "Now tell me how you really feel." I thought for a moment and then said "unsettled." It seemed the best description for the phone call that left me feeling as though the floor had shifted sideways.
I know that all of this, my life with Michael, is OK. There's no shame in it. No shame in moving forward. No judgement. When it came to telling Chris's mom these things, it seemed like a waste of words. At the end of the day, she didn't really care about the existence of Michael or the loss of Dad. She just wanted to hear someone familiar, someone who had been so connected to her son. Conjuring an image of her son through the voice of the person who knew him best. And maybe it worked for her.