Sunday, May 11, 2014

Dear Mom:

Five years ago you were on the verge of falling into your last days.  What a horrible summer that became, more for us than for you, luckily.  The actual fall that accelerated your decline also dimmed your memory.  At lunch you couldn't remember breakfast.  I'm grateful for that.  By the end, maybe, when you approached your next painful sip of oxygen, you couldn't remember how much the breath you just took had hurt.

It's to my sort of Platonic ideal of you as Mom that I'm writing to, though. 
In that ideal, the pain in your last years and months must be an awareness but not an actuality.  You'd walked your own parents and your sister through the ends of their lives so you knew what was coming.  You were a good daughter and sister, and a good mother.

I know that if you were on earth in your Platonic ideal, you'd have worried a lot about me in the last five years.  I've had some tough times, one step back for every two step forward.  I'm about the same weight you saw me last, maybe a little smaller, and my antidepressant dosages keep going up.  But my debts have gone down.  Daisy has gotten louder and more critical of everything on the street, but she has the same old energy chasing a ball and she's a fantastic nurse when I'm sick or can't get out of bed.  You did good when you picked her out for me.

I still live in the Bat Cave but it has a lot less stuff in it -- in fact, it's a perfect day today to keep taking books out to leave on walls in the hopes that someone else wants to read Faulkner.  I certainly don't and I've given up on being the sort of smarty-pants who does.

I finished a novel yesterday that I would have passed on to you -- I Thought You Were Dead.  I didn't think the human relationships were all that great but the relationship between the protagonist and his old dog was amazing and I can't stop crying about it.  I'd have warned you before giving it to you but I know you would have liked it a lot.

Dad is fine.  He's the same old piss-and-vinegar codge who lives on his own planet.  He finally let me alphabetize his CDs this winter (and donate a LOT of them: you would have been shocked) and he spent about two months listening to Chopin from beginning to end.  It would have annoyed you.  He's kind of in love with someone -- well, you know her well and if in some ways you might have disliked his choice, I am glad because she goes back such a long way that it's like having a bit of you in our lives.  It's a long distance relationship now.  They'll never see each other again.  But it helped him get through whatever he didn't tell us about losing you.

I've written two more books since you died, the one you knew about and another one, which I'm glad you can't read.  It's rated R.  Dad asked for a bunch of copies to give away at the senior apartment complex where he's living and I'm blushing at the thought.  One is designated for Fr. Max, if you can believe it.

And now I'm waffling about getting going on a book about the rosary.  I know, I know: you were never much for the rosary and mostly thought Mary was a nice icon, an inroad on the patriarchy.  I'm finding it hard to round up the kind of Catholics who don't believe birth control is a sin but who say the rosary.  The semi-renegades.  I need to do more research.

Maybe on Craig's List.

Ha ha.  That was a joke, Mom.  Craig's List is

Oh, never mind.

But we have a new pope, Mom.  Rat-singer, the old Nazi, retired.  This one is a puzzle.  He's warm, simple, charismatic, anti-capitalist, forgiving.  He's also enlisting more exorcists and he hasn't put the Piet√° up for sale.  But I have some new hope for the Church.

I have some new hope for me, too, Mom.  I fell into something.  It involves getting the word out about books and healthy living (excuse me while I go have a cigarette: yes, Mom.  I know, Mom.)  It pays well and I'm getting more work.  I think I'm succeeding because of my writing talent and because I'm pretty nice as an online presence.

Sorry.  "Online" means

Never mind.  It's good and has to do with computers.

Anyway, I have a little hope for myself for the first time in ages.  I like doing it.  I do it at home.  It's creative.  I can take it anywhere.  Independence isn't so far away.

I've been estranged from hope for so long that the relief of thinking about things I want and want to do without having to tell myself to shut up is like champagne.  I'm working like a dog but I like it and I have a real desire to do well in it.  I haven't felt that way about my occupations, except around my writing, since I was in university and graduate school.  It feels like falling up.

I've backed off sugar and wheat again, although I'm not doing meetings and stuff.  Yeah, I know.  I'll try.  But I have reasons for wanting to lose weight for the first time in years and it's not about looking better.  I want to travel, Mom.  I want to go to Fatima.  Can you imagine the gift shops?

I know.  I don't believe in it either.  But maybe I can be the miracle who goes rather than leaves.

OK, I'm all cried out now.  I need a cigarette for real this time.  I think about you every day, Mom.  Miss you.


Hilary said...

Oh, Frances, this is a wonderful Mother's Day piece. I should do one for my mom--she passed a little over a year and a half ago.

I agree regarding books--sometimes I surprise myself, tho. I read George Eliot's Middlemarch at age 66, but most of the time I know that there are a lot of books that I'm not going to read and it's okay!

Put me on your list--a Catholic who doesn't believe that birth control is a sin and who says the rosary!

Anonymous said...

Compassion, determination and hope are evident in your essay. Your new endeavor sounds intriguing and I hope you post more about it. I bought and read your first two books and look forward to the next one.

I can picture you in the places you describe. I lived on far West 57th St. and later in Brooklyn on Union (a few houses up from 7th) and then on Vanderbilt Ave. A boyfriend went to school on Joralemon St. and had a romance with a beauty who lived on Pineapple St. Now I live in a cowtown in the middle of nowhere.

My mother is a tough customer. She is 5'4" and delicate. She also has an ironclad formula for success regarding weight: Get on the scale everyday and if it shows anything more than 110 don't eat until it does.

Sending you best wishes from her disappointing daughter.


Anonymous said...

Frances, I didn't want that letter to end.

Could it be the start of a memoir... Dear mum?

Linda J

Vickie said...

Myself and both girls. Probably hard to round up, because we keep our mouths shut on topic. . .

Anonymous said...

Love this post. Have read and re-read your first two books, and have every reason to believe I'll do likewise with the third.

leora said...

Thank you for this Frances. I can totally relate. I lost my Mom 11 years ago and then my stepmom (she was my best friend- married to my Dad for 32 years) a year ago. I often find myself sitting in the car having long winding monologues with one or the other and falling to tears as a result. This post made me feel that, and I love looking at that picture of you and your mom. It's so sweet and she looks sassy. Losing your mom sucks- doesn't it?

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