When I was about fourteen, maybe fifteen, my very intelligent, often witty and joyful, yet sometimes deeply depressed and distantly aloof mother attempted to leave the life she had created for herself–a divorced mother of two adolescents who had opted to leave her and live with their career driven but kind father across town…
At that juncture in my young life, I had no idea looking into the glazed almost lifeless eyes of my overdosed suicidal– barely aborted at the last possible moment by a silently hysterical teen daughter– Momma, my friend, my first editor, my first love, that I would in fact in less than a dozen years from that date, finally have to let her go on her path to death alone, unattended in yet another exhaust filled small garage –this time filled with the fumes of a small cherry red Chevette four door compact. This week a colleague of mine at the small high school where I work has lost her beloved mom to the infirmaries of old age. I mourn for her. It is not ever pleasant to loose one’s mother, no matter what the circumstances. I feel my heart lurching at the thoughts of losing a mom, my mother, a friend’s mother, even an acquaintance’s mother. My heart crunches in my chest, and tears pop to the corner of my eyes, and sting me again from a place of experience that only those who have struggled to keep someone they love here instead of letting go can know. I see the struggle in my students at times, because teens are raw, as I was once a teen and once raw, but my rawness was muted with the knowledge that it was and is all too easy to allow one’s temporary emotional pit to take over.
Mom never allowed hereself to speak about her blackest moments to me, but her eyes never lied. Her presentation to the world was one of very “put together” and “proper” Presbyterian southern lady, not much make up, proper and conservative clothes, Chanel No. 5 perfume, and Ivory soap. She smelled like an angel, and her prematurely grey hair was covered by a soft auburn dye, which she managed at home by herself. She was independent, a mechanically sound woman able to work on her own lawn mower and car to a great extent, a linguistic genious, a grammatically perfected lady of the 1950’s and 19560’s. No muss and no fuss, but perfect. Always speaking and laughing in perfectly modulated tones, unless the chemicals became unbalanced in her exceedingly quick brain, and only on those occasions could screams and shouts be intuitied or even possibly heard by neighbors– evilly scary occasions. Rarely did the facade of calm break in public or in any place that could be considered not private. She broke glasses, plates, and our hearts. My brother grew up resenting her, resenting our father, and simply resenting the lack of “guidance” in life that most kids from “normal” families have and can count on daily. I was –only two and hald years older –the one who roused him for the school bus some mornings when our mom could not. I was the one who ended up driving him to school after we abandoned her dark, moody, 70’s custom built, lake view home to the cheery yet mildly decripid rental slump of our father’s tiny remodeled 50’s downtown home. I remember my little brother’s smelly socks, my inadequate laundrying and absent coooking abilities, and the puppy that Dad had bought us to ease the pain of our mother’s rejection. I ran away from her, and David got kicked out of Mom’s prestine presence. The new tiny cocker spaniel puppy peed all over the floor, carpet, our feet whenever we petted her. She was a sad puppy, starved for proper attention, as we were as teens. We were starved for attention, but we had food. We had clothing. We had a car for transport. Dad kept the house neat as possible, but frankly, the home was trashed by two teens who had never learned the art of housekeeping, laundry, or even proper showers from their mom.
So I mourn my mom, to this day. I don’t mourn growing up and getting out of the chaos of my childhood. I don’t mourn the mistake of my first 25 year marriage to the young man whom I thought of more as a friend than a lover, and I don’t mourn the fact he cheated on me for years as an answer to the loopsided love. I don’t mourn the joy of rasing my own children without my mom. I don’t mourn –now–my own divorce. I mourn the loss of my mom’s potential. I was only 27 when she passed. I feel like the loss of her thwarted my potential in many ways, for many years. Moms are supposed to grow old with their daughters and sons. Moms are supposed to become worrisome, burdensome, old, fragile, frail, and funny. Moms are supposed to see grandchildren and great grandchildren appear. Moms are to be the angels on earth for 90 plus years if possible. To my mom, I say, thank you for lasting as long as you could, and I remember your Chanel No.5 and your terry cloth robes, your laughter and your strong coffee. I am your daughter, and I know you would be proud.