Sunday, March 21, 2010
I've been writing a blogpost in my head about my mother lately. This morning, I found a poem by Mary Oliver (you may read it in the previous post) that I found true and beautiful, but I don't want to write about my relationship with my mother, or speculate about the mystery of who she was, or cry over her. Not today. I just want to see if I can create some kind of image of her that will feed my heart for the time being. In the world of the spirit, our relationships are just as complicated with those who have passed as with the living. Our ties with the dead continue to evolve and change and impact us with no need for traditional communication. And, I have found that as the years go by, it is far more difficult, or maybe just less necessary, to put into sentences our memories of them. I see my mother now in the things of the world that remind me of her. This is how people stay alive for us, I think-through the life of what remains.
I have some of her posessions: her collection of turquoise Indian jewelry from a long-ago trip to New Mexico; an Indian print skirt, the tiny waist of which has always been a silent reproach; some art books. In the next layer, I have my deep love for the work of certain artists and artisans; my ability to sew (though never quite as well as she did); my vegetarian stirfry recipes; my fine hair; my ambivalent relationship with my femininity, my vulnerability, my body, men.
Every day things bring me back to her: ordering a muffin and coffee never fails to conjure up images of the two of us in a booth at the little luncheonette at JP Penney's (we split the muffin). When I see a big, luxurious sedan, particularly in a pastel color, I smile thinking of her beloved powder-blue Buick Electra. My little dog sleeps on my lap, as hers did each evening. When I see a Vera scarf, a bright flowered pattern, a colorful dress or dangly earrings, I see her wearing them. When I wish I had been less afraid in my earlier life, less dependent on the affections and the approval of a man, less worried about the results and more interested in the adventure, I think of her, and I wonder how her life would have been, or mine, for that matter, if we had been born now instead of then.
It has been 32 years since my mother died. I had seen her at Christmas, and she seemed tired. I teased her about that: she didn't even want to go to the fabric store. She died two weeks later, and I got the news from my dad, over the phone, on a cold January night. My father told me that she begged not to go to the hospital-she hated hospitals. Her complicated medical issues necessitated far too frequent visits and she insisted that she would be fine. When it was apparent that she was failing, he wrapped her up in the tartan plaid flannel bathrobe I got him
for Christmas and rushed her to the emergency room. She was taken off life support the following day. She was 52.
She died before I realized that I needed her much more than she needed me; long before I realized what she could teach me. The lessons are still there for me to learn, but only if I find new ways to listen.