It was nice to smell the aroma of my childhood today as I sipped my cup of coffee. Yes, it's true! I didn't have my tea. I made me a "cuppa" in remembrance of you. Wish you could sit here with me to enjoy it.
I wonder if there is anything to the notion of treating ancestors to earthly gifts. Would it be nice for you if you could get a whiff? A taste? Kats has a shelf where pictures of his parents are displayed. Every morning he puts a cup of coffee and a bowl of rice in front of them, out of respect and remembrance.
I remember when Dad was close to death and he couldn't eat, he said he didn't miss food. But, coffee... oh if he could just have a taste! So, we dipped a cloth in a cup of coffee and touched it to his tongue. Would you have liked that?
No, I think not. In your last days you were a chai drinker. Weren't you? Tomorrow I will make a cup of chai and drink it joyfully in honor of you. Yes, honor you. I didn't do enough of that when you were around, except maybe on Mother's Day, Birthday, Christmas. The rest of the year, you knocked yourself out working for a living and being our mom. How did you do it back in the 1950's when being a working mom was not very acceptable? I certainly didn't appreciate it. I felt resentful that I had to babysit and do things around the house while other kids were out playing. And it didn't help that others made it clear to me how "deprived of a childhood" I was. Especially other adults!
I remember some neighbor saying, "Oh? Your mother works? She should be home taking care of you kids! Tsk, Tsk." Soon I decided to not mention your being employed. I let my resentment simmer. Today, of course, a woman who is co-owner of a business, present on the job, AND a mother is valued. Today you could have held your head high for your achievements and not be embarrassed. And perhaps I would have been proud of my mom and the responsibilities she entrusted me with.
I remember that last decade of your life, Mom. You fussed and worried and apologized repeatedly. "I should never have left you kids on your own. I should have been there for you. Maybe things would have been better if I never worked."
|James and Genevieve Deane, Easter 1950s|
8295 Laughlin Dr. Niagara Falls New York
I could go across the street to the park and swing on the swings when other kids had to come in and do their homework. I could watch cartoons all Saturday morning if I liked. I learned how to shop for food on my own. All of us kids had freedom to wander and wonder at what other kids were forbidden. We played in the woods nearby. We dug in the dirt without worrying about getting dirty. We had life as a gift to discover without constraint. Some people thought we were a bit wild. And yes, some parents wouldn't let their kids play with us. So what? We didn't like those prissy kids all that much anyways.
Mom, I hope there is a way now, you can see that it all worked out for the best. Can you see we are all getting through life with solid confidence that we can make it, regardless of the challenges? We learned to make mistakes. Unlike other kids, we knew how to fall down and pick ourselves up. If we scraped our knees, we knew to go home, clean up, put a band aid on, and get back out in the world ourselves. You kissed our boo boos later, if we thought to tell you. Me? I usually didn't. I was too busy complaining about having to do the dishes or whining about having to clean my room. But, only when you really got after me to get those things done.
I didn't realize it at the time, but your listening to me on the phone was better than gold to me. You know better than anyone the twisted turmoil I inflicted upon myself the secrets of my heart, the troubles of my soul. You put up with a lot of my taking it out on you, my blaming you for my troubles.
I remember you saying, "Yes, yes, it's always the mother's fault her kids are unhappy. Just ask any shrink!" I didn't know how much that hurt you, that we couldn't be close. You bent over backwards to help me, to be there for me. But, you didn't know what I needed. Not really. How could you have known? I certainly didn't. You didn't have a parenting manual. You didn't have a psychology degree to help you with your unstable daughter. How it must have tormented you when I couldn't get effective treatment, when I got so despondent I didn't want to live. I can barely stand it when my own daughter faces her grief. What pains her, pains me. I don't know how you did it, Mom.
I know sometimes you got upset, you worried about me doing the wrong thing, worried I was suffering because of the way I lived my life. Some mothers turn their backs on their adult children when they don't like how they live. Some mothers let go of the apron strings right when the kids leave the nest. They disconnect from their kids, then wonder why they are so distant. They live out their "golden years" disenchanted.
Grown up or not, I was still your child. I remember you saying that more than once. I think the last time you said that to me was when you were eighty-six, and I was sixty-one. "No matter how old you are, you will always be my child".
Whether it is real or not, whether you know what I'm feeling or not, it doesn't matter. I'm so glad I finally found this way to feel connected to you again. It's been a lonely five years without you.
You know what Mom? No matter where you are now, you'll always be my mother.