Friday, May 25, 2012

My Memorial Day

Somehow it is fitting that Kelsey's 26th birthday is taking place on the Memorial Day holiday.  She fought her own kind of war, was a casualty of it, and all we can do now is memorialize her and help in whatever we can so that others do not suffer the same fate.

I wrote once, very early on  in this blog - just a few posts in, how I would become frustrated with Mother because she fixated on the anniversaries of things involving my father, as if that was her cue to grieve.  That frustrated me because I was moving a million miles per hour and would forever forget to stop and contact her on his birthday or the anniversary of his death and let her tell me the same old things I had heard for a dozen or so years, and then I would have to deal with the fallout because her feelings would be hurt.  I felt at the time that I carried his memory with me always and didn't need to stop on a specific date to think about him.  I am much more sympathetic to my mother's position now, which probably doesn't surprise too many people.  What I wrongly assumed is that those particular days were the only days she marked in grief.  I know now they weren't, but as she moved on with her life, they were the days that tended to be particularly steeped in memories and got the best of her.  Well, Mom, wherever you are, like with about a million other things, I owe you an apology.  Because now for us there are just those certain days that will always be a little harder than all the others.

So, with that said, May 28 is one of them.  I vacillate between contemplating what life would have been like for Kelsey had she survived to thinking that is a ridiculous waste of time.  I also think about where most parents would say they want their child to be at 26.  No longer a child I know, but I also know now that it is incredibly hard to stop thinking of them that way.  I think most of us would hope that our now young adults would be out of college, working at something that smacks of a career, and if not settled into a permanent relationship already, on their way to one.  I think the parent population is probably split on the subject of grandchildren.  I would like some, sure, but I am more interested in making sure Marissa is established and comfortable in her life and has a little time to explore her own identity and have some freedom first before turning herself over to the role of Mother.  I would guess I would feel even more strongly about that in Kelsey's case because she had so much catching up to do.  They both did.  What I mean by that is that ED takes so much of you that you don't progress.  Physically or mentally.  Kelsey at 19 (when we really thought for a time that she might have beaten the disease) was a beautiful young woman on the outside and hyper-intelligent, but really had the maturity level of someone several years younger.  I was told this is not uncommon.  She didn't get to experience a lot of what "normal" teenagers do (I know, normal and teenager is almost an oxymoron, but hopefully you take my meaning), so she never learned the life lessons that most do during that time period.  Marissa had an unusual journey through her teens as well, but she's been on the road to recovery for a while; Kelsey never had a long time apart from The Beast to really experience life.  She did make a mess of things when she tried just honestly, but I think that was because the disease was always, always in the way.  Therefore, trying to picture her at 26 is hard because you don't know if she would still be sick or if she would have finally found a way out of that nightmare and be trying to move on with her life.

Even in the best case scenario she had been so sick for so long there would have been long term consequences for her emotionally and physically.  Her body had taken a beating for a long time.  So too, quite frankly, had her brain.  The hope I always clung to is that survivors of attempted genocide who had been starved and abused in horrible ways are known to recover, many of them, to live long, healthy lives.  Maybe that sounds awful to compare the two, but it's honestly what I would hang my hat on.  You grasp to what hope you can as a parent.  But, whatever the case, even if she had suddenly awoke one day three years ago and said, "Okay, I'm cured!" she would have some challenges now at 26 that her peers don't have.  If I'm honest with myself, I realize that she probably always would have.  Yet, I think about her piercing intelligence and her incredible artistic talent and I truly believe the world would have been a better place with her than without her, and that's what, at the end of the day, I'll be thinking about on this Memorial Day.


In the end, ultimately, what I think every parent wants when they think about their offspring at 26 is for them to be happy, healthy and safe.

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