“Aren’t you angry with her?” my best friend asks.
I am angry about some things, sometimes. I am angry that when she picked us up from school, her water was not really water. I am angry that when I went into labor with my second child and left my eldest daughter with her, my daughter slept in a soiled diaper and awoke with the fiercest rash I’d ever seen.
I am angry about the things she forgets, the countless times I repeat myself. At everything left undone, left silent. About helping her walk so she doesn’t fall, again, and again.
I am angry that she is slowly, so painfully slowly, killing herself with alcohol. That nothing I could ever do can change that. That her refrigerator is filled with wine even though the doctor told her she will die if she doesn’t stop drinking.
But I can never stay angry. The red fades after a few passing moments, like a piece of rice paper caught in the breeze, drifting beyond my reach.
I recognize her when I finish two drinks and want another, and another. When I take three Tylenol to numb last night’s mistakes.
I see her when I look at old photographs, and her smile reaches through the holes of space and time to remind me what lies beneath her body’s desperate attempt to surrender.
I see her when I have the courage to say exactly what I think, not caring about the consequences of those words. I see her when I am brave enough to chart my own path and honor my personal truths. I see her when I look at my daughter with a love that can only be expressed through tears of gratitude and humility. I see her when I attempt to do something larger than myself, attempt to make the world more beautiful, more kind.
I see her when I look at my daughter, and she gives a look only her grandmother can give—her body turning away but her head looking back, slightly tilted, with a flutter of an eye and knowing smile.
In those moments, I forget who I’m looking at. It is a look that cannot be learned but passed down through generations of defiant women.
I surrender as well. Not a surrender of giving up but one of stepping aside so the forces cannot control me. I surrender to the anger and guilt, to what should have been and what can never be. To the anxiety and stress, and tears. To everything but loving her.