Sunday, May 9, 2010
Mothers and sons
(My mother at age 18. )
I feel obliged to write about my mother today. "Obliged" is not the way you are supposed to feel on Mother's Day. I always wanted to be the loving son who doted on his mother but for some reason, some psychologically complicated reason, I could not achieve the level of devotion to her that I always thought she deserved. She was a kind, patient, giving, thoughtful woman who never did anything but love me. I loved her, too, and on an objective scale I don't think I was a bad son but I've never felt I was as good to her as I should have been. Maybe someday I will understand my feelings but today's not that day. Today I am thinking of moments...
...out in the yard with her when she made pickles in huge stoneware crocks, or watching her pluck a chicken, or do loads of laundry by hand in standing galvanized tubs, running the clothes through the wringer and hanging them on the line.
...her excitement on Election Day when our living room was the precinct polling place, and a couple of dozen neighbors would venture up our dead-end street to fill out a ballot.
...listening to her tell the story of when she fell in love with my father - a story involving a bar, someone flipping a knife into the tabletop, her gashed finger, and my dad trying to take care of her wound but nearly swooning at the sight of the blood.
...feeling sorry for her getting berated by my father time after time for yet another real or imagined failure.
...barely discernible memories of being held on her lap, cradled in her arms, restored from the thousand natural shocks of childhood.
...crying in the night and her coming to me to find out why, and her gentle reassurance when I asked her "What will I do when you're gone?"
It all comes full circle. I know now what unconditional love is, and despite my failings I know she understood all along.