Numbers And Drumsticks

I’ve been thinking about numbers a lot lately. Specific numbers. Numbers that now have significant meaning to me. To you, they may be arbitrary. To me, they are everything. For example; 25,150 – this number will now forever hold a poignant place within the fractured landscape of my heart. I will not be able to write it, see it, recite it or calculate it without being reminded of what it means…

This is not a lottery number. Nor is it a bank balance. This isn’t a math equation or numerical anagram. These numbers represent days. And although comparatively to some, it may seem like a large quantum, I assure you it is far from it. This is the fleeting sum of a life lived. The fastest twenty-five-thousand-one-hundred and fifty days you could ever think to know.

Day one – my mother was born – December the 8th, 1948. Day 25,150 – my mother dies – November the 6th, 2017. I assure you, this life was lived within the blink of a closing eye.

Today, albeit painfully, represents the first day of, Joan – the inception of… Mum. She would have been 70 today. She had actually asked me to come and see her before then, I never did make it – neither did she…

Today is my mum’s birthday. Today hurts real-bad. More than I had expected, if I’m being truthful. This is the second birthday of hers that I have to had to confront with her absence. I don’t think that I am feeling MORE pain today as opposed to the first confrontation with the eighth of December, but I certainly am feeling all of it. You see, last December, I was drunk. Purposefully, angrily, sorrowfully and horribly drunk. My mother has been dead for 397 days. That’s one-year, one-month, and two days… I have been sober for 116. That’s a lot of days of uninhibited pain. Necessary, sure. But it’s a lot…

I was in an alcohol and addictions rehab facility when I first felt that horrendous collision with grief. I woke up from a nightmare where I had seen a dead boy swinging by his neck pendulously at the foot of my bed. When reality set in and the boy faded into the ether of my weary mind, I rolled onto my side and searched for my phone – I was going to call my mum and have her voice sooth my aching ears that still held echoes of the boy’s grieving mother and father. When my fingers failed to find the phone, my mind sent word that my mother was dead and would not be able to answer just now… I finally felt her death. I cried for the rest of the night, alone and dreadfully frightened. I was sober, and I finally felt all of it. Everything at once. All seven stages, one blink after the other while on repeat until morning. I buried my face into my pillow and lamented, “MUM! MAAHHHHM! WHY?! WHY?!! Why, mum? … Why? …

That was on my third day of treatment. I had 39 to go…

When I left Bellwood and returned home, I entered back into my apartment. It was the way I had left it. A surreal feeling, seeing where you live through a cleaner set of eyes for the first time.

I wanted to call my mum, I knew that I couldn’t, but I wanted to. I wanted to call and tell her that I was sober now. I wanted to say, “Hey, mum. I stopped drinking! You believe that? Your son, me, Matty, I did it. I did it mum.” I wanted her to see that despite all we as a family had been through, despite the blame she put on herself of my father’s actions, I wanted her to see that I was a soldier, a medic, a writer, blogger and now, conqueror of vice. I wanted her to see that she had done a good job. That she was a good mum. And now, here on what would be her 70th birthday, I want so badly to say all those things.

I mean, our life growing up was not easy. Our family endured some of the evillest of things that this floating orb of ours has to offer and yet, not one of us turned out all that bad. I have pretty amazing siblings, each within their own right. They have families, I have amazing nieces and nephews. My mum was a grandma, or, Nana, as she preferred. We did okay. We got through. SHE did okay, my mum. She was a good woman overall. A sad woman a lot of the time, but a good woman. Tough. Strong and resilient. Quarrelsome in the best and worst of ways. She would have been 70 and I am convinced that she could have lived for 70 more after that.

Did you know that my mum once phoned a psychic? One of those ephemerally passing infomercials splashed onto the TV and my mum posed the question as to weather she should call or not. I was playing with my army men on the floor in the living room and was all to happy and eager to coax her on. She called and confabulated with whomever was on the other end of the line for what seemed like forever and I really don’t remember what all was said, but I do recall one thing, one question so vividly that I could almost draw it into life – my mother asked how long she was going to live for…

I remember being intensely interested in the response of that question because I lived in a perpetual state of fear that my mother’s life would end at a moments notice. I had seen her in and out of hospital beds, hooked up to all manner of machines growing up. I had heard the words, “Cancer,” spoken more times than I care to admit right now. I wanted to know. How long was my mum going to be around for? Part of me was frightened at the potential for bad news. Another more optimistic part hoped to hear the words, eternity, be orated aloud.

Ninety-nine. That was the answer. My mother was supposed to live until she was ninety-nine years of age. And you know what? That young child that heard those utterances that night, he continued to live within me until that fateful November morning. He died that cold winter morning as well. I held hope that no matter what was thrown at my mother, she would best it because she was supposed to. I do not believe in psychics, even less-so now… but it was a nice little fantasy to hold onto. Especially when having to confront with staccato the potential for my mother’s life to be lost while growing up.

70-years-old. She is not here to celebrate that milestone nor am I able to carouse with her while sneaking in a son-like jab at her maturing numbers. Instead, I am left to celebrate the memory of her while knowing that on this day, 25,000 plus days ago, my dearest mother came into this world. I had the honor and privilege of knowing her for 34-years.
Full transparency, although it’s her birthday and thusly gifts and wishes are supposed to be her currency to spend, I hold prurience for 34 more…

Mum, wherever you are, if anywhere, I love you. Happy birthday. Happy, 70th. Or as you may say, Happy 30-years with some 40 of experience.

I miss you.

Oh! Don’t worry… I’ll get drumsticks and slaw… (KFC reference – my ole mum loved her dirty bird)

Happy birthday, Joan.

Rest easy.

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