Posts Tagged ‘mother’

Random Tidbits

Posted: July 8, 2015 in journal
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“If you could not accept the past and its burden there was no future, for without one there cannot be the other.” Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men

Morning Sun,oil on canvas (2015), 76x60 cm (24x30)

Morning Sun,oil on canvas (2015), 76×60 cm (24×30)….

An aside to the story.

Today with now over 3 inches of unprecedented rain here in the high desert in just 2 days, my mind drifts to my mother and I found myself remembering her in a loving way in spite of all her faults.

Memories are quite tricky. There are the real memories and there are the perceptions of memories tainted by stories of other people’s memories. One would think that being a highly visual, empathic and intuitive person, my memories would shine but they don’t. Blocked out by so many unfortunate incidences, the ones I do possess are spotty tatters at best. Sometimes they are like old silent films, scratchy with a jerky camera. Other times they are vignettes of a Cecil B. D’Mille production in Technicolor.

Three, real or not, still stand today.

My mother once told me a story of when I was 2 or 3 years old. She had left me for a second to answer the telephone when suddenly she heard me screaming. It seems I had gotten into a fire ant pile and was covered in ants. Whether or not the story is true makes no real difference, what is fascinating is that to this day if there is an ant, any kind of ant, within a couple of miles of me, it will find me and bite me. It is as if my DNA merged with the ant so long ago and they have never forgotten.

There was another she told in a semi-dis-believing voice. She told me I came home from kindergarten one day, dirty and tattered as usual from being beaten up by the other kids, much to her continuing dismay. Upon her questioning as to what happened this time, it seems I looked at her and said, “ I am so very sorry, a mistake was made, this is the wrong time and I cannot fix it!” She said I frightened her and had no idea about what I could be talking. I was in my 30’s when she told me these two stories, they both made sense to me, the second just reinforced that continued feeling of perhaps I fell though a crack in time was just misplaced in the grand scheme of the universe.

Then there was the story of my invisible friend with whom I spoke when I thought I was alone, until I was 8 or 9. I guess being as there was never any other children I was allowed to play with, and my siblings would not have anything to do with me, I created my own friends. My mother said she purchased a turtle for me and that small creature solved the problem of me having someone with whom to talk.

Finally there was the time we were living together in Houston. I actually remember this! It was a Saturday and she put the dirty clothes in the basket to take to the laundry room. As usual, I carried the fabric softener, bleach and soap power.   That day for some reason I decided carrying two objects instead of three would be easier, so I mixed the soap power and bleach together in an empty coffee can. Halfway to the laundry room the can began to heat up getting hotter, so I set it down on the ground, and as I did it exploded covering me and a large area with bleach soap bubbles. My mother was several steps ahead of me and we both laughed until we cried.

Those were the only stories of me my mother had to tell where she actually smiled and laughed. There were no other good stories, just those minute fragments of joy and light.The rest were just alcohol induced, perceived illusions of me, which allowed her to escape reality of who I really was, allowing her to swim in the dark sea of her mind. It was her way of justifying the years.

Those stories were not funny at all and still make me cry. Tears and laughter seem to weigh the same and I do not feel the burden of their presence.

“We live on because we can love, and we love because we can forgive.”― Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram

 

..to sleep, perchance to dream...- ©2003- graphite on paper, 25x30 cm (10x12)

..to sleep, perchance to dream…- ©2003- graphite on paper, 25×30 cm (10×12)

The story continues……

As I said before, she was loved by everyone and to a lesser degree by my sisters who only saw her though the eyes of Capitán.  She was mostly unaware of our existence except when we would come to her with a problem and her response was always “deal with it”.  It was her way of saying “I have so much more to deal with you must learn to deal with it as well”.  She also carried similes in her pocket, tossing them over her shoulder as she left the room. Her way of ending a conversation before it could begin. Therefore I am not sure she ever really noticed the fact that every house we lived in Capitán always removed the bedroom doors to the children’s rooms and his room was always under lock and key. Not that she ever had any power to correct anything.

When I was small I can vividly remember my favorite places to play: the attic, the basement, or a shed in back. It was there I would pretend to live, safe behind a door I could close.  She must have known what was going on especially with me, for even as I grew older she kept me arms length, there were very few kind words and little if no information shared.  Because I felt I was her protector I always forgave her.  It would not be until much later that I would understand why, and when the opportunity finally came to explain to her what I knew, to find some forgiveness or understanding, she would not listen nor accept.

She finally left Capitán a year after I left for school. Managed to obtain the assistance of the US consulate and take my siblings with her back to the US and get a divorce. Her family condemned her for leaving her husband and refused to help, Capitán’s family under his orders, ignored her. Being out of the country he could refuse alimony without consequences.  So, she pulled up her socks, held down two jobs, went to night school twice a week to improve her secretarial skills and did her best with the children.  Gradually the strain of being alone along with everything else, proved too much.  Three years later Capitán regained custody of everyone except me, taking my siblings back to South America.  She once told me she would not let him have me back because I hated him so much. But I think it was her way of trying to redeem herself for many years of not being able to do anything.

Returning to the US from Europe I lived with her for less than a year.  She boarded a plane for New York one day and a better job after dropping me off at the train station so I could go live with an aunt in New Orleans. I did not see or hear from her or even know where she was, until 5 or 6 years later years later when she sent a note via my aunt, saying her mother died and she was returning to Texas. Four years later I received a wedding invitation; she married the man she had met in New York. A retired Navy Commander who worshiped the ground she walked on. They rented her mother’s house and moved to Japan where he was working on a project. I received occasional letters telling me how very happy she was. They eventually returned to the US, lived in Texas for a while, then Louisiana, and finally settled in Arkansas.

I always loved her deeply, so happy that she was happy with this man who tolerated her every fault, every mood, her drinking, her tears, her inconsolable pain. He gave her everything she wanted or needed and more. I had hopped she would find peace, and in a small way she did; but her life with Capitán had permanently damaged her and recovery was not possible.

I would see her many times over the next 20 years and I thought we had finally established a fragile relationship. Unfortunately, there was always an underlying current, as she did not approve of my career, she did not approve of my husband, she did not approve of the houses I lived in, my pets, my life. She did however, form close attachments to my sisters who all had children, only natural I was told. The day my stepfather died, I feared for my mother’s future.

This is when the final card of the epiphany deck fell on the table. She had asked me to come and help settle his estate because he had made me his executor, “against her wishes”, she said.  So I went to Arkansas for a week and put everything in order.   The day before I was supposed to leave she asked me come with her to her lawyers so she could adjust her will.  It was there in front of her attorney that she finally eased her conscience and disowned me, writing me out of her will and her life. “I no longer have any man telling me what to do!” she said. “ I can do what I want.”

“Are you sure you want to do this Mary?” her attorney asked. “Yes,” she answered, and in turning to me said: “Del always thought you were the best of the lot, but I know different, you always were a cheat and a liar, besides you have no knowledge of the value of anything. After all who would have taught you?”

I think I faded out for the next half hour, “dealing with it”, as she insisted I remain and listen to her specifications.  I remember thinking “only Capitán could have done a better job of public humiliation”, and at the same time suddenly understanding why animals chewed off their paws when caught in a trap. Looking down at my big feet I knew I did not have that option. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, 50 miles from the landing field; there would be no transportation until morning.

As I headed out the door the next day, the hired car waiting in the cool air of dawn, she came up to me and said, “ You do not need to contact me again. If I need your help someone will call you and tell you what to do.”  I remember just looking at her with terrible sadness, told her goodbye, and left her to the comfort of my sisters who moved in like proverbial vultures.

I never saw or heard from her again. I knew she had been ill for many years with liver, heart trouble, and emphysema that would keep her confined to the house; so I was not surprised when 6 years later I was informed of her death long after the actual event. There was no funeral, no burial, nothing to mark her passing. She had donated her disease-ridden body to science.  A niece I had not spoken to in over 20 years had called to inform me of the passing and that at my mother’s deathbed she asked that the message “I’m sorry.” be passed on to me.

I remember laughing sarcastically at the irony of it all, I could not cry. I felt no sadness, only a bit of anger at the waste; and then, that too passed.

Dealing with it, as I had and would continue to do with everything in my life, I once again silently forgave her, hoping this time she had at last found peace.