Sixteen years ago today, my mother died. That sucked and it still sucks major balls today. Earlier this week I was in my feelings and those feelings ranged from depressed to downright pissed off.
Then I woke up this morning to a series of interesting events. For the first time in a long time, I’m on the Greyhound back home. I Ubered down to the bus station and had the most entertaining driver ever. It was like riding with my aunt Gina downtown. After checking in at Greyhound and then finding out the bus would be delayed, I went to Starbucks. And that’s when I realized today’s date. Instead of feeling sad, I feel like today, I want to tell my family:
I love you
This picture, taken in 1995 at my aunt’s 25th-anniversary party (that’s me on the far right showing the leg), has everyone in it who gives me my entire life when it comes to my mother (far left). The only person missing from this picture is my cousin RiRi (better than that other Rhi Rhi). Every one of them has reminded me that even when I’m absent physically, they still love and care about me. They check on me around this time every year to see how I’m doing. In the beginning, it made me feel kinda weird because I felt like an orphan. But I realized that they were extending love the best way they knew how at the time. Side note: can you be an orphan after 25?
Because it wouldn’t seem right to have a tribute and not call folks out, let me tell you about some of the people close to my heart and who I would cut you over.
This guy. Since he doesn’t get on the ‘Internets’, I’m pretty sure he’ll never read this (and y’all betta not tell him). He’s older (see above ensemble and flip phone). Not quite old, but just old enough that he calls and doesn’t really want anything, just wants to talk. We have our issues, but he has consistently been supportive since my mother’s passing. He lost his partner of 20-plus years when my mom died. Yet, he still maintains relationships with our family because he loved her. He still misses her and if I hadn’t gone in and put my foot down, he would still have certain parts of the house enshrined to VeeJay. That’s just creepy. My mom wouldn’t like that kinda creepy.
Again… this dude. My brother is the male version of me, except meaner and more ready to fight. It’s hard to explain our relationship. From the outside, people may think we don’t like each other, but that’s just not the case. I love my brother dearly, even when he’s mean. Actually, when he’s mean, it’s now kinda fun to pick with him. Maybe it’s payback for all the years when we were younger and he picked on me. I know he has my back if I need him. So if you ever hear I made the call, somebody is in trouble.
My cousin Jay
Yeah… um… so… I was not nice to her growing up. I was to Jay what my brother was to me: a bully. I didn’t fully appreciate her until I was out living on my own. I love her like a sister. Every now and then I remind her that I think she’s pretty fantastic just in case she forgets.
My aunt Sandy (middle)
When I was a kid, I used to wish that my aunt Sandy was my mom. She had all the cool clothes and shoes. There was always a party at her house too. It was their parties that made me think when I grew up, my place would be the party spot. Alas, that’s not how I evolved.
Since my mother’s passing, I’ve grown closer to my aunt. She’s told me more about who my mother was before she became a parent and quite honestly, I can’t even imagine that version of my mom. Maybe that’s what the kids will say about me if they ever talk to people who knew me in high school. Anyway, I love her for that. It helps me humanize my mother and, ironically, see some similarities in how she and I evolved as adults.
My aunt Gina
Sorry for the old picture, I can’t find the one I want. Growing up, I didn’t see Gina a lot. She was out doing her own thing. When I did see her, I was always excited. Not only was she the fun aunt (she was the baby out living in the world!), she was the master braider. Talk about tenderheadedness and edge abuse. We always looked fresh though and I probably lost about 1,000 beads from 1984 to 1986.
As an adult, I’ve grown to appreciate her life experiences. A few years ago, we had a come to Jesus moment and I shared something with her that I never shared with anyone else in my family. I’m grateful for that experience.
My cousin Toni (left)
Another one of my role models growing up. Toni, like my aunt Sandy, was really vibrant when I was kid. People thought she was my mom’s sister, but they were first cousins. According to my mom, she and Toni were like me and Jay. I don’t see her much as an adult, but when I do, it’s always fun and I still feel that same vibrant energy from her that I did as a kid. I hope when I’m in my… uh… when I’m her age, people will still see me living life fully.
My cousin Kris
Kris is someone I came to appreciate as an adult. We’re both goofy. Before she moved to DC, we were the occasional happy hour/drinking buddies. Kris keeps me laughing. She’ll say something that is completely wtf and mean it. Example: I posted something on Facebook about my bladder. Kris commented that I needed some Ben Wa balls to strengthen my muscles and I was out here embarrassing the family. Kris. Daughter of Mega B.
The Kid and The Girl
I can’t leave a motherly tribute without saying something about my own kids. Despite the barbs, I love them. I haven’t always known how to be a good mother and realize that I’m better at it now that they’re older. These two are hands down the catalyst for a lot of my adult development. Something about having to be responsible for people other than yourself gives you a little more resolve to keep pushing when you want to sit down and say ‘screw it’. It’s because of them that I finished college and graduate school. That I lived in certain areas and maintained steady income when I wanted to kind of wing it. It’s because of them that I had to face a lot of my own past issues and work to resolve them. I can’t pass wisdom if I don’t have it to give. In expecting honesty from them, they force me to be honest too. And I can see VeeJay through me as they grow older. The patience, nailbiting, STFU when they do dumb stuff. I understand it all now through the eyes of a mother when I didn’t through the eyes of a daughter. If I could say one thing to my mom, it would be ‘I get it now.’
So as I pull into Columbus, this year is a grateful year. I understand my loss, but I appreciate the people I have left with me and the ones who have come into my life since to enrich it even more. Without them, I’d probably either be crying, drinking or both today.