Saturday, May 1, 2010


Today I sabotaged a piece of writing I had posted a few days ago because a friend who read it told me I sounded bitter. I backed down. I deleted what I had written. Of course, I don't want to sound bitter, or unforgiving, or unkind, or disrespectful.
But then how do I tell my truth if I censor myself, deleting anything that is not "appropriate." 
Sue Monk Kidd, in her book, The Dissident Daughter, says on the first page, "The hardest thing about being a writer is telling the truth."
She has that right.
I had also received two online comments about my post. My friend, Joy, said it was "honest," and "beautifully messy," like life.
My brother-in-law, Jay, posted a thought-provoking comment about absolution, the title of the piece, and that some betrayals may be unforgiveable, although understandable in the light of "they did the best they could." He said he had no trouble with evil thoughts, something I chastise myself for regularly.
When I told Ben today that I had deleted the piece, he was angry. 
Then tonight I had a flashback to more than 30 years ago. I was learning to weave on a table loom and had created a small piece. But I became disillusioned with my creation and in a fit of pique, I "deleted" it...I cut it up. My roommate came home and seeing what I had done, was angry. 
I realized that I have to move off the self-censoring critic that lives within me. Courage, not censor. No more will I delete my creations, no matter how beautifully messy.
What I wrote is filled with paradox, pain, and love. 
It is also my truth, as hard as it is to tell.
It is only a small window into a part of my journey with my mother.
Here it is again, sans comments from Joy and Jay. 

We honored mom's 101st birthday this week. Stan and Annie came up for four days and Jared and Kiersten came on Sunday for a celebration that included an hour sitting outside on the "new" patio in the sunshine drinking beer, eating chips and hummus and homemade salsa. All the efforts Ben put out to get the house painted and the patio almost complete paid off.
We visited and laughed, mom joining in as she could, stealing my beer because I hadn't offered her one.
Jared and Kiersten's presence added life and delight to our gathering.
It felt whole.
Jared and Kiersten left Sunday evening.
Then Monday, we celebrated mom's real birthday by going to lunch at Orchard Park. The food was terrible, the wait for it interminable, watching mom eat annoying.
There were moments I wanted to arise from the table and run screaming from the dining room.
All the old people would stop and look, "Oh dear, what happened to Sybil's daughter? Did she finally crack?"
I'm not sure if it's the fear that I will one day end up in a similar place, or the frustration at being there before it's time.
It's not time.
I chafe at the interminable wait for change, for something to happen, for her to decide it's time. My thoughts plague me. I made a comment at dinner last night at the McCracken's about mom.
Twelve-year-old Kate asked, "Do you want your mother to die?"
Well, yes, Kate, as a matter of fact I do.
Then 14-year-old Molly chimed in, "There's a difference in wanting her to die, and wanting her to have peace."
That's it, Molly, thanks.
There are those moments when mom talks without clearing her throat. It gurgles and grates on me like fingernails on a blackboard.
Sometimes I tell her, "Mom, clear your throat!" Then I wake in the morning sounding as if phlegm lives in my throat. I cough and hack and clear my throat and can't have a conversation until noon.
When she talks with food in her mouth and food falls out of her mouth, I'm embarrassed. I reach over her like a mother with a two-year-old, clearing the crumbs from her lap, cleaning up after her. It's okay. I'm glad I'm there for her.
But I get angry for stupid reasons.
After I picked Stan and Annie up at the airport on Friday, we went to mom's apartment to pick her up. Getting into the car takes five minutes. She grasps for the handle above the window, hoping to find a grip, something to brace her. She can't get her bearings, and it's difficult to help her. So finally I, or whoever is helping her, leans against her as she plops into the seat.
She gets seated, finally. And says to me, "I know how hard this is for you."
No, you don't! I want to yell. She's trying to read my mind, telling me how I feel.
I'm glad Stan and Annie are here, but yes, it is hard, but don't try to read my mind and feel sorry and project your own weakness on to me.
Next thought: But isn't it just a mother concerned for her daughter?
Next thought: I know that once she is gone, no one will ever care for me the way she has.
Next thought: Is it true? I wonder if her caring has been self-serving and narcissistic.
And then, guilt for my wicked thoughts. Sadness that I'm the one with no peace.
Tuesday afternoon I took a nap. When I woke I could hear Annie and mom talking in the living room. Mom was "confessing" that she had made a mistake marrying my step-father, Sam. I'm not sure I ever heard her say those words to me....that it was a mistake. For years she defended him: "But he was so good to me."
She said that she had asked our forgiveness, but I'm not sure she has ever said, "Will you forgive me?" and then accepted our forgiveness. 
She told Annie that "things happened," and that she drank too much. But I'm not sure I ever heard her say to me, "I drank too much." 
Her confession has taken 60 years. She gave it to Annie.
But I'm the one who has been waiting for the confession.
She wants absolution.
I am willing. I am willing.
I have tried.
When I'm not impatient and angry, I am patient and kind and loving.
I tweeze her "feathers," shop for incidentals, clean her sink, pay her bills, clean her eye-glasses, take her to the doctor, minister to her. Love her. Listen to her stories, listen to her memories to the point that I don't want to hear them any longer.
And then I wait for the phone call. The final call, when someone has found her, and I can say whatever it is I'm going to say in that last moment that I have a mother on this earth.

1 comment:

JoyRainbow said...

Way to go, Martha!
I wrote the facebook to you before reading your added preface. Which is also beautifully messy and beautifully honest.
I am proud of you, Friend!