Alternate Universes

My mom used to call having cancer her “alternate universe.” Most of the time that she was sick, it didn’t feel real. And now that she’s gone, things feel incredibly upside-down. There’s this overwhelming sense of “This is not how things are supposed to be.”

A few weeks ago, I went to see Into the Spider-verse after coincidentally having started Russian Doll that same weekend. Both have alternate timelines and a sense of loss and tragedy pervades each of them. Now that my mom is gone, I feel like a character in an alternate timeline movie or television show - that somehow, in another universe that’s running parallel to this one, my mom is still here. And we still do all of the normal things we did together - birthday celebrations, brunch on Sundays, big life events. My family and I still have those things, but they feel hollow and incomplete. Right now, it feels like I’m waiting to discover the mission I need to take to get back to a timeline where my mom is still here, and our lives are not the saddest version of what it could be.

About a month ago (against my better judgment), I went on a perfectly fine date with a guy. We talked about our families, as one does, but the best part of the date was that, for a few hours, I got to pretend like my mom was still alive. This guy didn’t know the traumatic experience I had just been through (I mean let’s be real, that I’m still going through), and there was no reason to tell him. For that night, I got to channel the timeline I so desperately want to be in. The one where my mom is still here, and I still get to talk about her in the present tense. Where I would wake up to a call or text from her telling me what time they were picking me up for brunch, and what new place in Greenpoint she was excited to try.

Instead, I now have a giant, gaping hole in my life, a potentially unethical reason for going on dates and as of yesterday morning, and an ill-advised (expensive) membership to Equinox (one in a series of desperate attempts to keep myself literally constantly moving).

And, if I must be honest (since now would be an odd time to stop, given how the nature of a blog often requires you to be forthcoming), I was out of town last weekend and haven’t made much progress on my knitting, but here we are anyway.

The First Stitch

Last month, a friend of mine did one of those things on Twitter where they put forth a question and invite people to quote tweet them with their answers. She wanted to know when you felt most like your mother.

The question came mere days after my mother passed away, and while, under normal circumstances., I would jump on the opportunity to talk about the instances when I feel most connected to the most important person in my life, losing her was still too raw, too fresh.

At my mother’s funeral, my dad talked about how, when the two of them would watch television together every night, they couldn’t watch anything with subtitles, because she’d be knitting and crocheting with the TV on in the background, not able to give the selected show or movie her full attention.

Similarly, although I am a passionate lover of television, I must admit that I am not very good at watching it. I have an aching need to multitask, often writing or cleaning with the TV on in the background, with few exceptions. This is also why I haven’t watched a drama since 2013 (with few exceptions). That being said, the TV is almost always on. It’s like the Nervous Dater lyric: “Because when things get quiet, I feel uneasy/I need my friends or at least just the sound of the TV.”

I started knitting, last week, just like my mom did, as a way to feel closer to her. The TV on, but my head down.

I know there are a million different stages of grief (the experts say there are five, but to me it feels like approximately one million), because my mood and cognitive understanding of my situation shifts from moment to moment.

Yesterday I went to the bank to deposit some bonds my dad found in my mom’s safe deposit box. Bonds that were given to my parents after I was born and later, as a bat mitzvah present for me. As I signed the back of each of the bonds, I was taken aback. All I could think about was how excited my mom must have been when I was born, and the future she saw for me, and for us. And now she’s gone. Seeing her name, written over and over again on the bonds, didn’t help either. It wasn’t long before I was full on sobbing at 2:45 p.m. at TD Bank in Greenpoint. At one point, a man sitting nearby asked me to borrow my cell phone. When he saw that I was crying, he took back his request, but then told me about his father dying in his arms, so I consider that interaction a wash.

A thing I’ve been thinking about lately is that even though I spent close to five months visiting my mom in the hospital, then in rehab, then in the hospital, then in rehab, then in the hospital, and finally, in hospice, all of that time feels lost to me. Like she was here one day and then suddenly she was gone.

So far, I’ve just taught myself how to cast on and began with a simple stitch. But it’s a start.