I like oatmeal. It’s not a morning ritual or even pre-race routine. But I enjoy it enough to keep it stocked in the pantry. I especially like it with blueberries on top, something about oatmeal and blueberries. My mother liked her oatmeal that way too, she had to have the blueberries. As she got sicker, enduring chemo every two weeks over and over she had trouble eating. She even quit drinking coffee and switched to hot teas. She was a lifelong avid coffee drinker, so the shift to strictly tea made me sort of sad. It felt ominous really, a sign of things to come. And the oatmeal along with some soup would be the last thing she would ever eat.
She’s been gone just over a month. It feels so much longer. I want her back. I want to talk to her. I want to make her a cup of oatmeal with blueberries and not see her struggle to consume even the smallest bite. When you watch someone die, you don’t process the later. Here it is, later, and I cannot un-see anything from my experience. The image of her struggling to eat oatmeal cannot be erased.
A few weeks ago I made myself a bowl of her favorite. Perhaps I was thinking it would make me smile, the memory that we liked our oatmeal the same. No it did not. In fact, I nearly gagged. My stomach turned at that bowl lightly steaming on the counter. One bite and that was it. I lost it right there in the kitchen. Completely sobbed over a spoonful of oats.
The reality and new normal that comes when you lose a loved one is relentless—that normal stares you down, beats up your heart and rips apart your seemingly sunshine day to shreds. Sadness lurks in every corner, picture frame and favorite sweatshirt she bought your sons. So much sad, speaking in her now past tense pleasures is excruciating. She wanted to go to the mountains again, she loved playing the piano, she lived to spend time with her grandsons, she laughed so contagiously, she remembered every birthday and anniversary. Where do you put all that sad?
I will plant her hydrangeas from Emily, Erin and Diane. I can promise my boys will appreciate music. We will never be afraid to dance. We will always be kind to animals in her honor. And we will be a good friend in her memory. But I am likely never eating oatmeal again.