Some years, the date sneaks up on me.

This year, it has been like a train barreling down the track, whistle screaming in the distance while I wait, unable to move until it has passed, and still I am surprised by how much the impact hurts when it arrives.

I read an article right after she died, or maybe right before. About a man who, five years after his father died, would still have times at work when he instinctively reached for the phone to call his dad. About that moment where you forget, even though it’s been awhile, and you wonder how you can forget something so monumental.

Because she was here for 34 years of my life and has only been gone for 5, and when you put it like that, 5 years doesn’t seem very long.

But when I look at my son who was only two back then, 5 years is most of his lifetime. She doesn’t know how much he loves dinosaurs, and can tell you the difference in a triceratops and sinoceratops, or that our chickens are the closest direct descendants to the T-Rex. She has never watched him jumping on a small exercise trampoline while playing a video game, because his brain processes best when his body is in motion, although I am certain she has given me grief about letting them play games and also been amazed at how fast he is at solving the puzzles. She hasn’t seen how gentle he can be with small animals, even when gentle is not typically a word anyone would use to describe him.

And then, it is absurd that she has never seen our house in Maine. How can that be, when I have memories of walking with her from the creek to the garden? Of sitting on the front porch in early spring and drinking coffee and talking about how different the seasons are up here. When she has joined me on walks in the woods and helped me identify plants I wasn’t sure about. She doesn’t know that Kairi has continued to love dance and takes 5 classes a week, but she has watched her in this year’s Nutcracker and was so proud of her for it.

Or she has, until I remember that she hasn’t.

And then I realize, when wanting to make something symbolic for dinner, that I can't remember her favorite meal.

I remember things I know she loved. I remember her talking about dishes she wished she could have all the time. But all I can come up with is going out for Mexican, because that's what we did so often. My sister, the only other one who knows this loss and how painful and complicated it is, gifts us money to go out, and it is good, and I think of the place near Boston we discovered that has chile rellenos like she used to make. How the first time we went there before I had even taken a bite the smell took me to those rare afternoons when the kitchen would be covered in every bowl we owned, because she could never find anywhere on the east coast that made chile rellenos like she used to get out west but it was an all day labour to make them herself. I know she has had them there, even though I don't remember if she ever even made it to Boston, much less one of its northeast suburbs.

I say a few times, "it's the anniversary of my mother's death." Sometimes I cry, even though it's the in-between moments that usually make me cry, not the the ones you can mark on the calendar.

And then later, I get mad, because I can hear her voice lamenting that nobody would miss her anyway, because she felt so small and unimportant, and five years later I want to scream, how could you imagine your children would ever not need you? And I don't know if I am mad at her, or a world that made her feel small, or myself for feeling the same way some days.

Tomorrow I will wake up, and check my email to see if casting is up for the spring ballet production. And I will work on Sebastian's Link costume, and shovel snow, and snuggle the cats and pet the dog and let out the chickens and ducks, and I will live a life that has been built entirely in a world post-her-death, that is further and further from our last conversation.

The dead stay just on the edges, there until we glance their way and are reminded that, no matter how strongly we may feel their presence or how certain we are of times they have been with us, they are gone.