On December 23rd, my mother died.
It still doesn't feel real.
Part of the problem is that I live out of state now, about 5 hours away. As such, I didnt see my mom and dad as much as I would otherwise. Part of that was by design. Some background.
I'm 40. I am married to a wonderful wife, and have two amazing boys, 12 and 10. I was raised by two parents who I loved, and who I believe loved me, but who really did very little to ensure my brother and I had a healthy way of life to grow up in. My dad is an alcoholic. For the first 10 years of my life, he was pretty much drunk all of the time. However, he then went on the wagon for 18 full years, before falling hard off of it again and never coming back about 8 years ago. My mom on the other hand has always been a drug abuser, ranging from illicit, to, more often, pharmaceutical. The number of times I saw her on the coach, "asleep", as a kid and teenager. Whatever, its in the past. Despite that though, my mother and I did manage to have a bond, somewhat more than my dad and I. Im not sure the nature of it, but it was there I guess. When I had a problem growing up, even if she wasnt always "there", she seemed to be the one I could talk to.
My mother was a child of an alcoholic. I understand the cycle of addiction. I will not give her a pass, but I understand that it makes the situation harder and more complex.
Given their substance abuse over the past decade, however, I made the determination that I was going to limit the visits to see them, and for them to see me and my kids. I mean, it wasn't without discussion. At least 20 times I told my mother, get help. get treatment. I want you in my kids lives. She always refused. My dad, once he fell off the wagon, did too (thats a whole other story....lost 2 jobs, lost his 401k, lost his license, fell once and cracked open his skull, full again and was partially paralized....still drinking though!).
As such, in recent years, our contact was limited. I was really angry and them in the months before my mom passed, and I limited contact with her quite a bit, again, hoping in vain that this measure of "tough love" may somehow jar something loose. And, and this is something I will always regret, in the months leading up to her passing, I would occasionally use an online "prak calling" service under the guise of making her laugh (sometimes she did, sometimes it pissed her off- she seemed fairly convinced it was me doing it). it was my warped way of checking in on her to see if she was alive.
Despite all she had subjected herself to, she was still getting by. In mid December, my Dad fell and became partially paralyzed. While he was in the hospital for that, my mom, on December 22nd, was found collapsed outside while walking her dog. She had a major cardiac event. Blood stopped flowing to her brain for an unknown amount of time. She never had a chance. her heart was restarted, but her brain activity never returned. On December 23rd, my brother and I made the decision, after consulting with my father, to turn off the machines after we were assured that her chances of any meaningful recovery were essentially zero.
Living so far away, being so disconnected, I still feel like this is not real. I still have a dozen of her old voicemails on my phone. They dont say anything of note, but they are there. I can't believe she is gone. Its not like I am walking around every minute of every day in despair. But at least once a week I have a moment or two where I put my head down and just get really sad. And the guilt, of how my last months of contacts went, with those silly calls, is strong.