Eleven Seventeen.

Eleven Seventeen.

I’ve been sitting at my desk for hours. My stomach growls. I check the time to see if I can eat lunch yet. It’s 11:17. Of course it is.
A few days later:
I’m cleaning up the kitchen. My eye catches the clock on the stove. 11:18. I giggle and sigh, relieved. I turn to the microwave, forgetting my appliances are rarely in sync. 11:17. Damn it.
Another time:
I wake up on my couch, a rerun of Parks and Recreation playing on Netflix. I check my phone to see how long I’ve been asleep. Not long. It’s 11:17.
I’m in the car running errands around town. “Here Comes the Sun” plays on the radio. Mom loved this song because George Harrison wrote it. George was her favorite Beatle. I park and check the time. 11:17. I sit in the car to finish the song, singing along through tears.
It’s been like this for weeks now. Nearly every day the clock catches me peeking at 11:17 even when I’m consciously avoiding knowledge of the specific time. Mom’s birthday was November 17. 11:17 is her time.

I know it’s silly. When it’s a random, occasional thing, I rather like the small reminder from the universe. This constant barrage is something else entirely.

I’ve been reviewing old emails concerning my mother’s care from the last few years of her life. Doing so is like picking at a scab. The emails are in a saved folder on the AOL account I used at the time. The last one from the executive director of the nursing home is dated April 11, 2010. The next email in the folder is from April 28, 2010, regarding the memorial fund I set up in my mother’s name with the National MS Society. So much went on between those two that isn’t documented. It doesn’t need to be.

I looked back to see if there was a flurry of emails around this time five years ago, perhaps a reason for all the reminders of Mom right now, but no. It seems things were quiet in February and March of 2010. I remember my husband and I were busy looking for a new house at that time, so I’m sure I was thankful for a break in the drama that typically surrounded my mother.

I know one thing for sure: I didn’t know she’d be dead two months later.

I’m not beating myself up that she wasn’t the center of my focus until April 13 when she last was admitted to the hospital. I couldn’t have known what was coming and having been down similar paths so many times in the previous year I had no reason to think it would be different that time either.

I had learned not to take the calm for granted. There’s always a storm coming right behind it.

I’m not sure who made the five year mark a milestone. It hardly matters now because this is where I am, on the precipice of what feels like it’s going to be a difficult season of grief.

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24 Responses to “Eleven Seventeen.”

  1. Stacie says:

    Oh, this is so hard Michelle. I’m sorry.

  2. Be gentle with yourself. There is no right way to get through it, only your way.

  3. Nancy Lowell says:

    Michelle, grief has its own cycles, and often sneaks up and surprises you. And then it retreats again. Breathing really helps.

  4. Cheney says:

    I’m so sorry you’re going through this, I can’t imagine the loss.

  5. Sam Merel says:

    Oh sweet friend. Sending you lots of love during this season.

  6. oh i hope the coming sun changes the season for you. and i’ve had that clock thing before as well. there were certain periods where every morning and evening i’d look at the clock and it would be 911. began to freak me out. sending hugs!!

  7. Jenny P says:

    I hate milestones like that because they are a self-fulfilling prophecy. Five is just a random number that happens to feel kind of round so we put meaning on it which makes all the things around it meaningful even if the third year was harder and weirder or if seven months ago was the worst of all. It insists on being recognized and that makes hard things even harder because there’s an amount of guilt that travels with it too. I wish you nothing but luck and warmth in these coming weeks and months. You are up to the challenge of it. The proof of that is you are here. XOXO

  8. Asha says:

    Missing a loved parent is so hard. So hard. I hope the reminders of your mother stop beating you about the head, and bring you peace instead very soon.

  9. Meg says:

    Call me crazy but I do believe those coincidences serve some greater purpose in the universe: to make us pay attention. Before you know it, those 5 years become 10. It’s really hard for me to comprehend that 25 years have passed since my mom died. I think that intuitive part of your brain is telling you something: “keep writing, you are brave.”

    • michellelongo says:

      The passage of time, both in relation to this and various other things, has been on my mind often lately. I can’t wrap my head around my own thoughts but there’s something in there. I’m sure 5 will turn to 25 before I know it and I don’t know how I feel about that.

  10. you know, you capture the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” feeling of being the primary caretaker so well. You had to make so many decisions — please know that you really did great just by showing up. What an ordeal.

    This: “I had learned not to take the calm for granted. There’s always a storm coming right behind it.”


    • michellelongo says:

      The amount of time I spent wondering if showing up was enough… even this far removed, I can talk myself out of being okay with thing if I want to. Damned If I Do, Damned If I Don’t could be a title for my book. Having people understand that is still so important because back then, in the thick of it, it seemed like no one did and that is soul-crushing.

  11. Natalie DeYoung says:

    I love how you structured this. I love how you express how it feels. I just love reading what you write.

  12. dowbiggin says:

    Wow. I wonder if your Mom would appreciate my “Plants Need the Sun” parody about photosynthesis.

    I realized the other day that we just passed six months since my Mom died. A part of me knew she was on her journey to the end when we got her diagnosis back in June. And so I’ve been grieving for more than six months in that way. But a part of me still believes she’s alive, just a phone call away. And that is mostly because Patti handled everything. You know Patti. She handles everything. And so I sometimes feel terrible that I wasn’t there to share in that experience, to be able to understand the depths of what that was like.

    But more often, I feel (guilty though it makes me feel) grateful as hell that I didn’t have to live it every day like they had to back home.

    I can’t imagine what it had to have been like, through your college years and the early years of your marriage, and of motherhood, to be in that role of responsibility, and doing it all alone like you really had to. All I can imagine is that it had to suck.

    • michellelongo says:

      It did suck. I’m not sure if it would have sucked less or more if I were older, if my relationship had been different, or any of the other “what if” scenarios I’ve conjured up over the years.

      I’m sorry about your mom. I felt like the first year after Mom passed it was a series of first anniversaries of last times that I didn’t know were going to be last times.

      Sending good thoughts your way for healing. Grief, guilt and feeling grateful are all hard in their own ways when they surround someone we love.

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