On My Own

By Iris Krasnow

When my mother died, I grieved for the woman who had become my best friend. In the process, I discovered myself.

I am 52, but it wasn’t until my mother died last December that I finally felt like a real adult.

She watched my hair turn gray, my arthritis set in, and my four baby boys become teens with stubble. Yet to Helene Krasnow, no matter my age, I was always her little girl. At times now, without her, I feel like one. I’m old enough to be a grandma myself, but this slap of loss leaves me heaving, at odd moments, with kindergarten sobs. No one loves a daughter like her mother—even at times when it doesn’t feel like love, when that love confuses, annoys, suffocates. She is a mirror and an anchor. She is the person I counted on to push my hair out of my eyes, to buffer me from bullies, to lead the way.

After more than half a century together, separating is staggering. Today I grieve for a woman who not only grilled my cheese sandwiches until I was 18 but also grew into my drinking buddy (vodka martinis, slightly dirty, two olives), staunch advocate, staunch adversary, the most loyal girlfriend I will ever have. My mother preserved my whole history as if it were a precious quilt, patching together stages with pictures and notes, keeping the sprawling bolt of fabric intact. And when that primal and seemingly ancient connection was cut, it was like being yanked from the womb again—only it was way tougher than the first time. She grew on me and in me, and the distinction of selves became blurred. We shared a heart.

It wasn’t always this pretty…

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