Sister, Sis, Sissy, AnnMarie~
Hello, darling. It’s late at night, on a Monday in November, 2012. You are slumbering away, in what I hope, are sweet and peace filled dreams. I am just now, finding space in my heart to devote words, now and again, to nothing but you. I had intended on writing to you in this fashion, from the time that you were born. I originally started with old fashioned pen and paper. That was so very short lived. I have a tendency to freeze on paper. Life became busy, Gregory arrived and live became chaotic.
Then in February, just two weeks after your seventh birthday, Gregory was diagnosed with cancer. This you already know and feel oh so acutely. It was at this point that I all but abandoned you. My physical and emotional presence in your life ceased to exist, for quite some time. It is now nearly four years since then and I am just now trying to find my way back to you. It’s not been easy.
Over the years, I am hopeful that we will be able to have frank conversations about what has passed and how it still affects our relationship and the woman you will one day become. I struggle with connecting with you. You need and deserve so much more than I find myself able to offer to you. I struggle with being the mom you want me to be and being the mom that I am. I sometimes feel like I fall so terribly short in your expectations.
You have a gigantic heart and free flowing, lofty dreams. I want to feed your heart and soul, but still keep you a bit grounded. There is plenty of my own baggage that comes along for the ride in our interactions. I want you to be a woman who is strong, confident, independent, loving, open, practical, with a touch of big dreams. Someone who not only follows her heart, but listens to it in the quiet moments. A woman who is not afraid to look herself in the mirror and say to her reflection: “I love you.”
I wonder how the last four years have hindered that development. I wonder how I can show you that I love you. I wonder how I can offer you the security that you so desperately seek. Seven years old is such a tender age to be abandoned by your mother. It is such a young age to have your touchstone yanked from your life. Especially in a situation that pulls her to focusing 100% on your little brother.
At the risk of sounding harsh and unfeeling, I will tell you this: It was the only choice I could make. Given the same circumstance to repeat, I’d make the same choice. Even with the knowledge of hind-sight. Harsh, I know. It was not a choice that I had to ponder, either. It was visceral and innate. Gregory was facing death. You were alive and healthy. You had Daddy, Nana and Papa. Not to mention our extended Montessori community. While they are not a replacement for your mom, they were there for you in ways I could not be.
My heart and my head reasoned it through. It was better for our family for me to focus 100% on Gregory for a short time. Offering him the BEST opportunity to survive and recover. Versus a lifetime of the four of us living without him. It may not have been logical. I would like to think that my singularly focused attention to Gregory did help in his survival. The truth is, I don’t know. I’m beginning to think that this way of thinking was my way of bargaining and appeasing my own guilt at having to leave you. Pleading with The Universe that if I sacrifice my relationship with you and Curtis, then we might get a chance to keep Gregory a little longer. I don’t know, sweetheart. I can’t look back with regret or question the decision that were made. In fact, I don’t.
My biggest overriding feeling when it comes to you, is an ache tinged with grief over what we missed out on together. Half of first grade, all of second grade,a large part of third grade, most of fourth grade and now, you are in the fifth grade and I am beginning to find my way back to you.
I’m hopeful that by writing to you like this, I will also be able to talk to you now. I’m hopeful that it will enable me to be a stronger presence in your current moments. I cannot undo the past. Yet it is there between us. I can only support you now and be there for you when your heart crosses places that hurt.
When I pictured my family, I had always imagined having just one daughter. You. You are that one daughter I always wished for. Today, I only wish that the years had been easier for us. They weren’t, though. We were handed this really crappy and hateful thing called childhood cancer. You suffered right along with Gregory. You and I will get through this.
Five minutes at a time.
I love you, young lady. With the fire of a million burning suns.