Sunday, May 14, 2017

Letter to My Mother on Mother's Day

Dear Mom:

For most of my life, you have been or would be proud of me.  You didn't always understand what I was doing, but you were proud nonetheless.  I had forward motion.

For the last few months I haven't had the forward motion.  I don't think you'd be entirely proud of me right now.  I'm stuck, Mom.  Hitting 60 has been a horrible billboard that I have played grasshopper rather than ant.  I have a lot of junk to show for it but no retirement plan & unsure even if my taxes have included social security.  I'm scared, Mom.  I had parents who were mostly there to pick me up from a bad fall but no one, now, to help me into old age.  I am struggling with a decision that I will try to support myself until 78 (I gave myself three more years, which is a relief), then pack up everything & take a long chemical ride home to you & Daddy.

If there is a home to go to.  I doubt it, but I want it very, very badly.  I want to see you & Dad, Uncle Norbie, Uncle Connie & Aunt Claire.  I want to tell Dick I forgive him.  I want to lie down in the grass with all our youthful dogs and roll around in a crowd of tongues.

I, who cannot use the phone, called Tom this morning.  His voice, Mom -- it was like being home.  I'm not sure what prompted me to do it.  Maybe Mother's Day.  We both need a mom on Mother's Day.  It was a good chat.  I told him about my 18-year-plan & he was appalled.  But I don't think he would really want an old me on his hands.

It's hard living under a death sentence.  It makes living impossible for me.

And yet, of course, I do live.  I'm abstinent in my fashion.  This could lead to weight loss, perish the thought (perish me).  I planted a half dozen iris last fall & am amazed that at least two of them have the slender, arrowhead buds that will take another few weeks to bloom.  I didn't plant two of them correctly.  They need deeper pots. One didn't make it.  But I did it.  I planted iris, our favorite flower, & I didn't fail even if I didn't quite succeed.

Brenda, you'll be happy to know, was able to did up bulbs at the Lake, so the legacy lives on: Chicago to Ashland to Portland to Missoula to Flathead.  I wonder if our poppies are still blooming.

You would hate what the world has come to, Mom.  We have a president who laughs about grabbing pussies, who abides by no laws, who has made jeering at people & Kentucky Fried Chicken and steak with ketchup socially acceptable.  His supporters are just plain icky.  I feel like the last person in America who knows how to set a dinner table and make conversation, although I avoid the latter as much as possible.  Thank you for civilizing us, Mom.  I had the family over not so long ago & was staggered when I cleaned up.  Only Jim & I had used our napkins.  Only three of us had used dinner forks.  I know Jim doesn't think it's important but you put him on automatic pilot.  It helps our solidarity,

You & Daddy would laugh that Jim, Brenda & I are planning to travel together.  Jim & I: can you see what that would have been like 20 years ago?  We want to take a short trip this summer & a trip to someplace tropical where your water babies can do what we do best: swim & eat cookies.  Jim asked what I wanted for my birthday in December & it struck me on the way home what I wanted: time with him.  I want to rent a boat & drive fast around the Lake to our old haunts & swim at Bird Island & have ham sandwiches & chocolate chip cookies, the quintessential Flathead lunch for kids who'd been in the sun & water so long that we.they were shaking with hunger.  It's hard to find time with Jim, especially in the summer.  His bio-sister has now bought a house next to her cousin so I'm gonna have to lay the guilt on to get my day.  It's time to spread the other half of your & Dad's ashes, so maybe I can add that to my arsenal as well.

Since Jim got his bio siblings, I had my DNA tested this winter.  At 60 I wanted to know.  You'll be happy: I came out almost half German, half Dutch.  I like the Dutch part but not so happy about the German.  There's a snick of Irish in there but not as much as I thought or Dad once told me.

Daisy will be 14 in July -- can you believe that?  I have a picture of you holding her at four weeks when you picked her out of the litter.  "She's the calm one," you said.
 Hahahahahahahaha!  No one is scared of her any more.  Partly that's because we're back in gun-&-Lab country, but how dangerous could this white faced, gamy-legged creature be?  Fourteen is beating the odds & I feel very much like Daisy & I are walking down a long dark set of stairs now.  I don't know when they'll end, but they are the last stairs she'll walk.  I told Tom that the pre-grief is the worst of it & he agreed.  When the Time comes, it will be for Daisy's sake.  She has no idea that the weakness in her back legs & her long, long naps are harbingers, although I think she's aware that not being able to jump in the car or, sometimes, on my bed are...strange.  She is used to doing these things.  Why can't she now?  I'm anxious about swimming season.

I don't think a day goes by that I don't cry about it.  Lately, I've cried every day missing you & Dad.  I often wake up thinking I'm my Martha's Court bedroom & that you'll be there when I get up, probably nagging about something or being insultingly sunny.  It's very brief but very real, especially after another stormy night of anti-depressant-fueled dreams that are always about people who hurt me.

It's no wonder napping is my favorite activity.  I dream less.

Everything is up in the air -- no, that's not right.  It's like the world, my friends, the family are all twirling plates, busy twirling.  I'm standing among them stock-still.  No motion, no direction, watching my and Daisy's life spin themselves out on some Fate's spindle.  This conversation is about the most active thing I've done in months.  I don't know how to live, Mom.  Right now I don't even know if I want to except that I'm paralyzed by 78, by time ticking 18 years away with nothing to show for it.

What are you telling me that I can't hear?

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