Insomnia, Math, and Missing My Mother

It's 4:45 a.m. I've been awake since about 3:30 a.m. There's a dull buzz in my brain that tells me I'm still tired enough that I should be asleep. But I am not.

I am awake. I am awake in that particularly acute way of being awake that is terribly uncomfortable when all I want to be is asleep.

Today is my mother's birthday. Today would have been my mother's birthday, if she hadn't died many, many years ago.

Lying awake, I realized that I'd lost track of how many years it's been since she died. I'd lost track of how old she would have been today.

I had to do the math. She died in 1989. It's now 2018. That's 29 years since she died. (2018 - 1989 = 29) She was 48 when she died. 29 years later, she would now be 77 years old. (48 + 29 = 77)

But, lying awake, I didn't trust that mental math. So I started checking my work. Adding the years in different ways. I was 13 when she died. I am now 42. That's also a 29 year difference. (42 - 13 = 29)

I moved on to calculating different years and different milestones. The year she was born. How old she had been when I was born. How old she would have been when my kids had been born.

Usually math helps me fall asleep. When I'm having trouble unwinding, I count by 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, etc. Usually up to 12s, because that's where elementary school multiplication tables typically stopped. But sometimes moving on to count by 13s, 14s, 15s, etc.

Or I count by prime numbers. (2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, etc.) Or I count by the power of 2. (2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, etc.) Or I count by perfect squares. (1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, etc.)

But this math, this counting years without my mom, has done nothing to help me fall back asleep. It's only made me more acutely awake.

My mom died in February. Which means there will be another painful anniversary next month. There will be more sad math, because, apparently, that's something my mind likes to do.

Sixteen years ago, when I was 26, it was upsetting to realize that it had been 13 years since she died, because every year after that would mean that I'd been alive longer without her in my life than the years when I'd actually known her.

Three years ago, when it had been 26 years since my mom died, it had been upsetting to realize that she'd been dead for twice as many years as the 13 years we'd both been alive at the same time.

This year, 29 years since she died, doesn't have such a clear pattern. (2*13 + 3?) But if I live another 10 years, which I hope to do, the years without her will triple the years with her. The longer I live, the longer I live without her.

Does grief get better with time? It's not as constant. It's not as frequent. When it comes, it comes with new dimensions. It comes with new thoughts that take away peaceful sleep. But it still comes with the same familiar pain.




1 comment:

  1. My Darling Susan - One of my first thoughts of this new year was, "Wow. It's been 10 years since my mother died." No one should lose their mother at age 13. It breaks my heart that it happened to you. It also fills me with admiration that you've gone on to live a beautiful life, raising two fabulous, devoted, happy sons--no one deserves them more! So sorry for your sad, sleepness night. <3

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