Thursday, March 03, 2005


Me and Doris, S. Africa, December 2003

My mother passed away a year ago today, and even though she was far away, I knew it in my heart. When my dad called to say that she had been taken to the hospital, I was shaken with a cold, cold fear that blanketed everything. I left work, and Six drove me out to the beach where we sat in the car and watched the ripple of the waves. To me they seemed peaceful and shimmering and somehow it made it all the more certain though my dad hadn't made it seem final. It was only the fact that he even called that made me know something vital was about to happen. When my brother and I conference called later that evening, we were prepared to make the long journey back, but my dad said, "Kids, I don't know how to tell you this . . . but she's gone. Your mama is gone." And that's all it took. I didn't have a mama anymore.

All gone, like when you get to the bottom a jar of goodies, and you turn it upside down, shake it . . . and nothing comes out. You can lick your finger, swirl it around in the container, but when it's gone, it's gone. If it's something rare and valuable, there's no way to replace it, so there's no use trying. It's not like spilled milk that you can sop up and squeeze back into the jar. It's light as air. It is air, so you must breathe deep. It's like the springtime scent of jasmine, ephemeral, fleeting yet lingering. The only way to hold on to it is not to try, just breathe and remember what life was like with a mama. You can remember when you were five, and she tried to teach you jacks but you never really caught on, that type of hand-eye coordination being beyond you to this day. You can remember . . . oh, you can remember a lot of things. Maybe they're too personal to share, and that's okay too.

Just close your eyes and remember. . . . Doing so, you'll realize I lied. Doris isn't really gone, at least not completely. Besides the fact that she lives on in so many memories beside my own, I do also believe in spirit, and my mother's is alive and kicking—in me, my brother, and in the spirit realm, whatever that truly is. I know because I can feel her presence sometimes, usually in my dreams, which is when I like it best because there I don't have any doubts that it's real. One of life's stranger ironies is that it's on the plane of waking reality that things are more likely to feel strangely unreal. The most clear cut indications of her presence were just a few days after she died, when a drooling, gibbering man pointed to the sky and told me that my mother was looking out for me. The second was on my birthday when she came to tell me that she's proud of me. I won't explain the details of either of these experiences, and you're welcome to disbelieve, but that's okay. Perhaps it's just between my mother and me.

My pops is in South Africa. If he were closer, I'd "go home" today, but for me, home truly has to be where my heart is. I'll get together with my brother hopefully later in the month. My good friends who knew my mom are scattered across the country—Colorado, Michigan, Virginia. Of my good friends here who didn't know her but have been wonderful props during this long, cold year, most are at work or otherwise occupied. (Today is Lala's birthday; Happy Birthday, friend!) I've no other significant others, so it truly will be a day for me and my mom alone.

The question is, what do I with myself for the next 12 hours, for I must to bed by 10pm so I can jump back into the larger, day-to-day part of my life—working, playing, and revolving. I have a few ideas on how to spend the day. I'll let you know how it goes when it's done. In the meantime, I'd like to thank you all for your love and support. Please know that I am well, having resurfaced a few weeks ago from a tiresome bout of the blahs. It's been a long winter, but I'm back to my bullish, impish self, already having a storehouse of escapades that I'll be sure to share with my mom today. Hopefully, she can give me some good advice on how to cobble certain parts of my life back together, what to excise (work I've already begun), and how to live more gracefully without succumbing to certain follies.

The one lesson from my mom that I'm still working to internalize is how to make the most of one's life, despite outward circumstances. Though she slowly lost the ability to do even the smallest things that gave her pleasure, she always managed to dig up a smile. Only once did she sound defeated, and it was during a phone conversation shortly before she died. I called, and she said she was glad to hear my voice because she'd been sitting there feeling sorry for herself. I'm sure she did more times than I knew of, but she knew how to be a trooper, which I've never been good at. I sometimes take the twists and turns of fate too personally, when really, in the end, it probably comes out even in the wash. I have too much of the expectation that if you're nice to people, they'll be nice back, and that if you live your life with a conscious effort not to damage the world that you won't get damaged. But it happens, and when it does I have to review all my notes, make all the requisite behavior modifications, and muster the desire to get back on the saddle—all of which takes a hell of a lot of energy. My mother would just cut to the chase: life may suck at times, people may suck at times, let's get on with it. For example, one of my favorite Doris quips was about how women always carry on about what a beautiful experience childbirth is. More than once she said, "Aaaach, anybody that tells you that is lying. It's painful, it's scary—but I'm glad you're here." I miss you, mommy!!


Anonymous nappy said...

the stars can shine bright in the sky tonight

4:59 PM  
Blogger Zenslinger said...

Beautiful piece.

11:38 AM  

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