Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Do Not Go Gentle

“Something to remember me by,” was the first thing that popped into my head staring at her gaping jaw, open, lifeless, as remembered umpteen (her favorite word) times on the couch, a drop of drool at the corner that was tilted; it could be either way, left or right, there was always a drop of saliva daring to fall onto her lap, but it never did – why – probably due to the raspy dragging in of breath that sucked it back up each time it threatened to let go of the dried and wrinkled crevice corner of her mouth.  Each time (and there were many) she engaged in a stunt that evoked disdain from her children, it would result in, if only briefly, a moment of elation she could then stow in her “I gotcha again!” stockpile of personal pleasures at pissing off everyone, and she would dismiss our repulse with, “something to remember me by!”

“For God’s sake, this is your final expression?” was all I could think, as the reality of her finally gone kept smacking me on the head, unbelieving, waiting for her to open her eyes – “fooled ya” – and once again the nagging would begin, relentless as it had been up to the moment the nurse injected the lethal dose of morphine and Ativan.  “You know she won’t wake up,” the nurse had quietly warned, accomplice to the final act of snuffing out a life.  A slight nod, unnoticeable to the naked eye, was delivered from us.  She, who had no desire to deliver us into this world, was delivered out with no reprieve.

I tried to locate a tear somewhere, there must be at least one, I thought.  But it never came.  She died alone, as she had lived, driving all life away from her with her narcissist focus, not even allowing us to provide comfort, to mourn her departure, as she took her final breath.  I had laid my head on the shoulder of my beloved that morning after the call.  Was it a whimper?  A soft sigh of relief?  The tears never came – ever.  Unlike the avalanche that came the night after my father had died.  He and I had made amends in the hours before his death, without words or actions, but with an undistinguishable acceptance in our gaze as I squeezed drops of water into his mouth from a damp washcloth.  The tears had come that night as if I had never cried before.  The damn broke, releasing a torrent of rage, hate, love, relief, scorn, and pity; for him for all of the resentment he had for us all in forcing him to live a life he had no hand in designing, for me, an unwilling recipient of his torment, soaked in alcohol and cigarettes. 

But there were none for the creator of the illusion we all lived.  She sat there, propped up, as we had left her the night before, her breath labored from years of disease, an illness she had fought tooth and nail against, rallying time and time again from its eventual fatality.  How she had wanted to live!  An entire existence of wanting to live by her own design, yet succumbing at an age once labeled old maid, fighting against motherhood, suburbia and apple pie.  Even as her lungs hardened and calcified, coming back from a CO2 narcosis to shock us once again into the realization that she was not going quietly, she hung on, to the shreds of her wasted life, hung on, to the pernicious viscera of her indignant existence, determined to ruin anything in her path that reminded her of the dreams she had relinquished long ago. 

To feel sorry would let her scorn go unforgiven – yet – it was that self righteous vanity that molded the mother in me, who loves her children, who applauds the foibles and flaws in others, sees them as intricate networks of genetic data, gifts from ancestors, good and bad, teasing out the desirable from unsavory characteristics, to pass down, in word and progeny.  For that hard won victory over a long, drawn out battle, I had to honor her fight and extol her defeat. 

We sat there at her bedside, conversing for two hours over a corpse, as if it were normal.  And she sat there, vacant, not there.  Life began in her wake, because she was never there, in her life or mine.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Considerations at 3am

I love you, she called out in the dark, in a half whisper – a hiccup, Tourette-like;
to herself perhaps, to comfort the instability she sits in daily.
It speaks out nightly, at that all familiar 3am hour, bewitched as it so seems, when all spirits unite
and her line to God is direct, free of static.

Those words didn’t fall from grace.  A prayer, perhaps, to no one in particular
or across the big pond to her children – she feels the connections – the threadbare cord that still binds
the permanence of love.  She so boldly assumes; no –
feels, as it stretches across the miles that separate.

So much has changed.  To grasp it at this unencumbered hour, hold it with love as it moves through,
like a transient visitor, one who leaves profound change within the turbulence
while traversing through the muck that has been kicked up in the process;
pondering this is futile at this hour.

I love you, she speaks at quiet moments, faintly audible, a soft hymn that coats the disruption,
smooths the ride, softens the jagged edges that ripped through her heart as she shared a Meritage, chosen just for her palette, as she sat at the bar.  She always lets him choose it.  She let go of the banal,
put forth no effort, allowing the red to coat her tongue and linger.

I love you, she says to that which holds no place worth considering.  Holding on is impracticle.
The wine carries the pointlessness she feels in palatable gulps; she savors the last sips as the triviality slips away.   I love you, she must say to the empty vessel, avoiding the temptation to ruminate,
sitting in the expanse as it spreads through her, this liquid, warm and shapeless.

I love you, she welcomes no one, no thing in particular, without question or expectation.
Filled.  Because that is all she can do. 

Friday, February 20, 2015


In the early hours of a new genesis, I emerge from a long slumber, ripe
with transformative lines, as if I were asleep face down
on earth, hunkered down for three years,
lines grooved into my cheeks, some from a long inner sleep, others carved
                  from wisdom earned of

Where have you been, I ask.  What have you seen? 
What news do you have that I can glean, stuff into my pack and
carry to the next door, creaking open for a glimpse? 

What will I find there? 

Glowing suns, lush pastures, sugar cookies, butter and walnuts
cradled into honey and dough,
planted into rich humus, berries dripping from terra cotta. 
This, and more, you say.

And it is good.

Build the new hearth with unearthed stones from Nordic firma that is now,
                  at long last,
                                    yours to walk on. 

Build the new foundation from two grown sons, flown and creating stories from pieces of your lore and love, sewn neatly into their coat linings. 
Yours is frayed, well worn, looking for new threads, green stalks along your well tread road, to fortify, weave a coat you will wear until your grey is set free,
                  flowing long and wild,
                                     once and for all;

enmeshed ‘tween tiny sticky fingers;
your flesh intertwined with theirs, your history lodged between their tiny toes;
toes spreading on tended grounds,
finding footing in the wild gardens of your fossiled youth,
safe and inviting to nubile shoots looking for food, love, treasures and trueness.

Truths that have come full circle, rebirthed in innocence, speaking your wisdom
                  for the ages. 

The lines on my face curl upward,
thanking the goddesses
                  for all that has,

                                            all that is.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Lost Keys

She got me.  Again.  Nine years after her death and Ma is still getting the last laugh.  I lost my keys today.  Another reminder that the acorn does not fall far from the tree, that her blood still runs through my veins.  The fear of becoming my mother became reality today when I lost my car keys.  We searched everywhere: the five feet from car to meter; the 20 feet from meter to restaurant; the entire restaurant.  I apologize to the patrons who got the space beneath their feet examined by three frantic women –my friends-- for far longer than is humanly comfortable.  And more apologies to the dry cleaner, in front of whose shop I was parked, who came out to help us look, under the car, over the car.  The keys are gone.

It is payback.  All brought on by my own less-than-kind mischief, I must admit.  Ma was constantly searching for her purse with such ferocity, such vehemence, always insisting someone took it.    I admit it, my siblings and I used to hide it from her.  Never for very long, it was just a way to assuage our own lost patience at hearing her unremitting questions and accusations.  But the venom rising to the surface from Ma’s core at such an alarming rate meant this was no laughing matter, never to be jested about. That purse of hers represented some deeply held secret, perhaps an unconscious guilt for the pilfering of her siblings’ inheritances, or maybe it simply held her checkbook. 
“Where’s my purse?” she would ask at least three times through any meal or outing.

While I do believe in aliens, I know it was not the work of them.  That is unless they are working with Ma.  Not that this would be their idea.  She probably shamed them into assisting her.  Or bombarded them with guilt until they acquiesced?  That’s why I know it was her… she, who could turn good wine rancid with a look… she who could take down the strongest of men one cell at a time, until they were puddles at her feet, never knowing how they got there.

Ma’s blood courses through my veins (though cleansed through fire, purification, and therapy) carrying the genetic seed of pathological lunacy, which has settled into my psyche as the constant worry about losing my keys.  Ma is here in me and she is laughing.

My friend, who kindly drove me across town to pick up my house keys from my son and then back home to get my spare car key (did she not notice the anxiety rising in me as I loaded myself down with more keys to lose?), asked me later why my mother couldn’t help me locate the lost keys.  Help, I said?  This is the woman who got her kicks out of giving me onesie footie pajamas every Christmas (well into my 20s) and forcing me to model them for her.  She was not about to help me find my keys when it was she who helped me lose them.

Ma will always be within.  She gifted me life.  So, I must thank her for that.  And I thank her for her infinite lunatic antics that continuously provide me fodder for the stories that accord belly laughs to my friends and family.  Who is laughing now?

P.S.  I’m sorry I hid your purse.  Now please give me back my keys.