At the end of your mothers life there is so much to reconcile and remember, but with this incredible woman reconciliation was easy albeit remembrance so incredibly difficult and profound … This image was taken days prior to my sweet mothers passing from cancer. Her’s was a life well lived and a life well honored.
And my mother … she was amazing!
Mom was never one much inclined to be in the least maternal, let alone a Suzy Homemaker … her focus was more on of work and socializing. That was totally ok with dad, but it was a bit disconcerting to a kid when all his friends had the mom who stayed home, packed their lunches, did housework and had a proper dinner on the table every night. Not saying I was scarred by it at all, it was all pretty normal to me but it certainly shaped my view of the world differently than most my age …. in retrospect I find it all rather funny.
Mind you, when I say she wasn’t terribly maternal it was not in a manner at all neglectful or in the least malicious but she just wasn’t wired to be doting … perhaps another interesting quirk from that Scandinavian blood. In fact to express it in a clearer light there was that one instance dad would tell with that humor you can only enjoy when a really bad situation is avoided and the results of it are not at all long term or permanently damaging.
One thing you need to realize first is that mom was meandering a bit on the narcolepsy scale, not so much so that she would fall asleep in the midst of daily events but there are countless times that in the midst of a conversation on the couch or chair that she would be talking along then suddenly gone .. out .. unresponsive and snoring. For the longest time I thought that was just normal!
When I was born, mom was convinced by many that she MUST breast feed and she tried it for a short time (she would tell you it was the most god awful experience of her life, short of pregnancy and giving birth). What ended this life sucking experiment, clearly designed for her in the depths of hell, was the night that she fell asleep in the bed with me as an infant during the process. From dads retelling, he walked back into the room after a bath in the sparse apartment and found mom rolled over and sound asleep, figuring I was back in my crib he grabbed a book (he was an avid reader) and settled in to read. He was a chapter or so in when mom rolled over and exposed the baby she had previously been nursing ….. apparently it wasn’t a good scene as dad was screaming “ANN!!!! WAKE UP!!” as I was laying there, dark blue and not breathing. Not much of a way to start life being first smothered to death by your own mothers breasts and then being slapped and shaken until you start to breath again. It was then, that dad decided perhaps mom was right and that whole nursing thing had to come to an end. Now, don’t take this as me being affected deeply by this freudian event as I truly am doing nothing but laughing as I write this …. you would have to know them both personally and well to get the total humor in it all, well and the fact I am alive to actually pen this says all worked out just fine.
A lesson, however, to us all, that some people truly are just not wired to have children … even if they rise to the occasion and become amazing parents as mine did … and a lesson I have embraced now as a parent dealing with many situations that (to this day with adult children) have no chapters written to help in navigating incredibly difficult seasons.
One clear moment of realization that my life was not that of other kids with Suzy at home came at around the age of 7, when out of the blue during the summer break mom called me down to the basement saying “Can you come down here with me? I have something I would like to show you”. Mind you, the basement of this house was not one of the fun places to go in the world. The house was old and and back in the day when the house was built there was no such thing as cement block foundations, or it being used as living space (root cellar from horror movies, where the college students get ax murdered was more like it) and this one was the poster child for creepy old basements. The foundation was fieldstone and the floor that was once dirt was later covered roughly with cement, there was a door still for the coal deliveries, and the most monstrous of monstrous octopus themed furnace that was at one point oil fueled but now converted to natural gas (remember those??). Beyond that there were the impassable cobwebs, hand built shelves made of rough hewn lumber, walls black with mold, and the all important dank stench of all old cellars. That all said, you can understand that a trip to the basement was never one that a 7 yr old says “YEAH! Lets go to the basement!!!”
Aside from the furnace, the only other things located there was a VERY old and large blackened pot belly stove situated next to the washer and dryer. As I crept down the creaky narrow stairs mom started explaining that she had meant to do this for a year or two, but now I am clearly tall enough to handle this. I thought it was must be some manly thing that only a boy could do … kill spiders, find a snake hiding .. you name it but no that wasn’t the reason at all. To my sudden disappointment she looked at me and as a matter of fact stated “I don’t like doing laundry and you are big enough to do your own, so before I have to head over to a friends you are going to learn how to do it yourself”
Over the next 5 minutes I was fully instructed on the process, the expectation that I would handle my own clothes, and that as long as they made it to my room and out of sight that was enough. The entire event had me standing there not unlike that moment when someone says something so incredibly out of hand that you cant even form words to reply, trying to say ANYTHING but you are still trying to process “Am I REALLY hearing what I am hearing??” Yet there I was and after 5 minutes, instruction was complete and she left with only “Got it?”
From that day onward, I did my own laundry …. looking back, I missed so many opportunities to rid myself of the polyester turtle necks, checkered shirts and corduroy pants she was insistent I wear and in her eyes were clearly fashionable. I cannot help but think this brought me to that stage in my teens where I was found in nothing but jeans, a black shirt, black overcoat and 5 earrings in my left ear … hate to admit the fact I have spent most of my life rebelling against corduroy but the sad fact is that just maybe my “Fuck Convention and Expectations” may have my roots in polyester and and the Hell inspired corduroy is likely true.
Of course nowadays, since that look of rebellion is all the rage, my hair is short and I would never be caught dead wearing an earring! As my guitar virtuoso cousin said to me once when he walked into the home I raised my children wearing dress pants, shirt tie, and galoshes over his leather shoes at the age of 22 … “Cousin, when your parents are and always have been hippies what else to you have to rebel with but dressing like this??” Point well taken.
We all find ways to step out on to our very own, to be the person we believe we are destined to be, clearly never going to emulate those that raised us, and through all those consternations we inevitably end up being those we rebel against. With luck we become those people with some enhancements, and if you are self aware enough you become better people than your parents ….. thats how it should be and if we fail in doing so then we fail our parents legacy.
They most certainly may have not been perfect, and you most certainly will not be but if all you can do is be as good as they were and take just one thing to grow beyond then you have left a legacy that honors those who came before you. In the end that may be all you have to offer the world that lasts or has meaning …. the legacy you leave, the lives you touch for good, and those that actually miss your presence in their lives.
Aside from that, you leave this world with little left behind but things … and in the end all things are discarded, rot, or burn … not much to be said for a lifetime so choose wisely in your breathes as to what is left behind.