If your name is Edward, Eddie, or just plain Ed, please don’t take this personally. I don’t mean you. Chances are I don’t even know you.
I’m talking about past tense Ed. As in watched. Walked. Talked. Hugged. Laughed.
That sounds weird coming from a storyteller. As a writer, even the stuff I make up comes at least subconsciously from personal experiences. Past tense should be one of my BFFs.
In many ways, it has been. I try to live in the moment. But when going somewhere new, trying something different, or meeting a new quirky person, a part of my brain is already writing about the moment. I enjoy writing about life as much as I enjoy living it. When I go back and read this paragraph, I realize just how lame that sounds. Lame or not, I think many writers can relate. For us, writing is a huge part of living .
So it disturbs me that my relationship with Ed has grown complex. It still brings me joy, but I must now sludge my way through some super-sized puddles of sadness too. I have recorded some moments that I would gladly leave in past tense forever. But more often, I recall writing happy Ed moments secure in the knowledge that while the particular one I was describing was over, there would be more like it in the future. I watched a great show. I talked with an old friend. I walked an amazing trail on a crisp fall day. I laughed until I damn near peed myself. I wrote about those times knowing full well I would be walking, talking, watching, laughing and even nearly peeing myself again.
There is a huge piece of my life about which this is no longer true. When it comes to making memories with my mother, what is now Ed will never be Ing again.
This hits me hard in what look like harmless, innocent moments. I go grab some afternoon java fuel at the coffee shop at work, and run into one of my football buddies. It might be the janitor in our building, who like me is a Steelers fan living in Baltimore. Or it maybe it is director of another office, who is a die-hard Ravens fan and jokes that I must be confused about where I live. These surface relationships built on empathy or rivalry bring some fun to our long workdays, even in the off-season.
In June, we are all going through a bit of football withdrawal. We chat about the rituals we look forward to in the fall as we pour creamer into our coffees or stir in frightening amounts of sugar. Someone jokes that I must get locked in a room by myself when the arch-rival Ravens and Steelers meet. Surely not even my nearest and dearest would want to break up their sea of purple people with my black-and-gold-clad ass.
“Actually, I’ve got a group of Steelers girls here,” I reply. “And even when we can’t all get together, I always watch …”
I stop, stare into my coffee as if it can help me, and fumble over the word. “Watched with my mom,” I finish lamely. Those game days where we’d sit in our pub and gulp beers with one hand while we covered our eyes with the other, peeking nervously through our fingers because Big Ben was looking a little Forrest Gumpy on third down, are now Ed moments with no hope of future Ings. Even the less happy memories, like when we watched a Ravens/Steelers game in the hospital last year and I brought a Steelers blanket to drape over Mom since she couldn’t wear her fan gear, are in the past.
I loved my football seasons with Mom. I loved being different together. I will still love football season, but being different without her is going to hurt. Then again, every day without her hurts at some point.
Everyone who loses a loved one goes through these moments of painful Ed-and-Ing insight when they are talking about a shared tradition and realize that memory making with that person is over. There will be more memories made, but they will have a huge hole in them where someone amazing should have been.
As a writer, there is an added strange component to this part of grief. It doesn’t just happen when you are living those moments or talking about them. It hits when you are writing them, too. That is a blessing and a curse. I’ll make an effort to focus on the blessing side of it.
My relationship with Ed may be dysfunctional, but I’ll never let it go. Being able to write about Mom allows me to relive those precious memories, and while I am tapping away at the keyboard they are happening all over again. Stealing a bit of Ing where there might otherwise only be Ed is a gift.
Love you Mom. Like a Dog.