Love in the absence

One of these days, my mother will die. At times I thought she died, for me, long ago. I’ve felt the shame of wishing she were dead; wishing I didn’t have to carry that weight any more. Even so, I visited her the other day and told her the sorrows of my heart. She understood everything.

My mother was never ‘there’ for me; not the way the healthy kids’ parents were. She was there for herself, in a world I couldn’t access, and often gone, gone completely. She loved me her way. It didn’t always get through.

I’m a parent now and here’s how I think it’s supposed to work: I embrace and defend and nourish my kids no matter what. I give them someone who wants them despite whatever they’ve done; who welcomes them home no matter where they’ve been. I give them someone who enjoys seeing them, who waits to hear them laugh, who will always miss them even when they’ve finally gone – forever. And by giving them that I make them strong. They have ground to stand on. They get to grow up.

We’re lucky with our kids. They have no where else to go. We can make lots of mistakes. I make my mistakes and my kids are still standing in my kitchen. I say, ‘gosh, I’m sorry.’ I hug them and we get to keep on going together.

I haven’t been so lucky as a man. With no love to stand on, I still think it has to be proven; I kick you a few times to see if you’ll stick around. So the lovers I’ve had are far away now, not even real, anymore, outside memories and hopeful reconstructions. I step across my living room floor and suddenly stagger, under a recollection, as if physically struck by a blow. How could I have done?

My mother believes she’s never been loved. She spent my lifetime telling me I refused hers. I sat with her and we asked each other our questions. It turned out, we still don’t know what love is.

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