I've been combing through books and scrolling web sites looking for documentation of what my mother is suffering from. For some reason I believed that if I could see her pain, feel her symptoms, I would somehow be a better daughter to her. Indirectly.

So, I opened Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom by Christiane Northrup, M.D., a book which has always given me comfort when I was looking for words of healing. It was a gift from my sister, Witchiepoo, inscribed with "Much love and sisterhood" on my 20th birthday.

The index directed me to a magical place where I figured my answer must sit. Sigh. There was nothing of significant importance... except for my own words, written in the corner.

They said, "Forgiveness provides me the opportunity to live without you. As long as I resent you, you keep a firm grasp on my heart."

For the first time in over two years, I picked up a pen and wrote something of real substance. Something I was proud to read again and again. I realized that my life has been standing still because I am afraid to move ahead without her. I felt like my stagnation is what I owed her in some way. My success doesn't allow for her to live on in my head. And if I let her go, she really dies.

Yesterday my Joel-man asked me if I loved my mother.

Of course..... Not...

No, of course I do... Not...

I love nothing more than the nostalgia of the woman she used to be. I love the woman who kept me home from kindergarten so that she could read me stories in a dead-on perfect Grover impersonation. I love that she smelled of PineSol and Winstons and Musk oil and she'd dance with me for hours to the sultry rhythms of Santana.

I love the eyes that stare back at me in a poloroid of a careless 16 year-old surviving in the worst of situations. I love that she's smiling so wide I can see her fillings.

I love the woman with wispy clean hair that I'd wrap in my hands to take in the smell.

That woman died a long time ago, on a balcony in Dearborn. I watched the fire burn out. I watched her laugh it off. I watched the tears roll down her neck.

She's become a shell of a person, barely a human being to me. A hollow Easter Bunny.... Disappointing.

But if I let her go, I have to keep moving, and that's the part I trip over. She's my little ghost, my own personal demon. My iron dress. I've never been without her dragging at my ankles. And I welcomed that slow pace that I was "forced" to walk. I embraced the voice of impossibility that followed me like a rain cloud.

I would clean my house and sit on the floor amongst the good smells, close my eyes and invite her to see what I lived. Then I'd open them, seeing for her, breathing for her. I'd let her talk through me, let her criticize the streek I left on the microwave. Let her tear into me. It was my comfort, the familiar, my completion.

Yesterday the Joel-man set it in stone for me and then pushed it downhill. I was hungry for the validation from another person, that I had no responsibility to do anything at all. I can not protect her from her own Karma. The most compassionate thing I can do is to let her pay her own debts.

So, I suppose she dies today. For me anyway. Even though I know that I'll crack right down the middle someday when I get the phone call telling me she's 'really' gone, today I release myself from this self-induced prison. Today I take responsibility for the excuses I've made for myself.

I am proud that I kicked my way to this surface. I laugh as I choke on my first deep breath. I willingly trade in these concrete shoes.