Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Ode to Mom

June 4th was my mother's birthday, and for the first time since her death I forgot to call my maternal grandmother to reminisce. Death does funny things to a family. Suddenly everyone was very close to the deceased, and as such deserves a "little" piece for posterity.

My mom was unhappy for most of her life. If I had to sum up what was most important to her in one word, I would say men. Like most parents, it's hard to see them clearly until you gather the perspective of all that know them. As a child you are told nothing of value, only non-statements such as, "You're mom is a damn good woman," or "She did what she thought was best for you." Uh, yeah, ok. Mom always took care of mom first, and gave me what was left over.

When I was three or four, my dad went to work like any other day, but came home to an empty apartment. Some man helped us load the UHaul truck, someone I knew from around the apartment complex. Mom told me that dad was meeting us where we were going. I don't remember when or how she finally told the truth. Funny, I remember a lot of things, but that one detail escapes me.

We lived with my Grandma for a while. My Grandpa took the training wheels from my bike and watched me ride it alone for the first time. Incidentally, I rode it on the street. Back then it didn't matter where you rode as long as you looked both ways. My how the world has changed since then.

How many times did I cry for my dad? Did I even speak to him on the phone?

Mom told me to go to my room, so I plugged my record player into an extension chord and bit the connection. My eyes saw static, the kind you see when the channel isn't available. When I pulled the chords apart, an tiny egg shaped depression had burnt into my upper lip. I told my mom what I did and she sent me back to my room. Her eyes never left the TV set.

Who was I to her back then? A nuisance, a mistake that could have been prevented by wearing a condom god damnit. Heads up to you parents out there, kids know, and they know early.

She told me one day that she was sending me to live with my father. I screamed for joy and bounced up and down on her bed. I never thought in my childish mind what that did to her, it wasn't intended to hurt.

My father's mother picked me up to drive me. Perhaps dad couldn't rely on his self restraint. Only then did I realize that I was leaving mom forever, and when the tears came I couldn't speak or think. I watched the receding figure of my mom in the rear window. Her face might as well have been a likeness on Mt. Rushmore. My grandma still tells me about that day, and how bad she felt for me. If I let go I can still be moved.

When I was old enough to drive, and visiting during summer breaks, the same old mom didn't have any time to spend with me, but she had cool cars, and a different one every year. She had no compunctions about giving me the keys and enough money to enjoy. Not every kid drove a Z-28, unless of course they were rich. Maybe mom was buying me off, as one of my step mothers felt inclined to suggest, but I was in no mood to question her methods. I was a poor kid living with my dad. I wore the same old corduroy pants that ripped in several lines from the foot to the knee. Every day before school I would go to one of the classrooms and tape it from behind with masking tape. I didn't even know how to bathe until Shawna in ninth grade told me I stunk. Then I took one every day whether I needed it or not. I always wondered why other guys got on so well with the girls, but I couldn't get the time of day. But when I visited with mom, the first stop was the mall to get a whole summer wardrobe. I felt almost human when I came home from fantasyland, back into the real world of poverty, despair and disheveled hair.

Mom killed herself, not in the literal sense, but with cigarettes and vodka. Her ex-husband, a "rehabilitated" ex-con, was there with me to witness her final moment. Her crystal blue eyes opened wide in shock, then the lights went out but the eyes still shone, staring sightless to heaven where I hope she is waiting for me today. I loved her, and yet I was so disappointed in her too, for not loving me, not holding me or making me the priority that an only son should be. The nurses in the ICU stared at me, anticipating a big show of tears. Her ex was straddled on top of her, kissing her and mumbling incoherently, but I stood there looking at her, my face next to hers on that far away Dakotan monument. I lay my head on her chest and said goodbye, but to me, a body, ruined, riddled with cancer throughout most of her internal organs, was all that remained. My mother was somewhere else.

I feel like I need to apologize to her, but if she were here she would tell me that she understands. She was just that way, a realist that didn't have the same secrets that most of us have. Her secrets were much darker, so normal secrets were just insignificant.

Wait for me mom. But first, I have some children to raise, love, respect, and never, ever, let go.


jj said...

I am sure your mother did love you, but sometimes personal torments really don't allow for other people. That is sad, but true.

Scott said...

I thought you would be able to relate to this from reading your blog. Your comment is insightful and true.

Alan said...

Scott, wow. Someone came from this post to my blog, so that's the only way I found this in your archive and I'm a little off-balanced at how similar we are. I've written a few odes to my mother too over the years of blogging. Now I know why I've done it.

Thanks for this. I'm with you.