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My ‘mother dying’ thing probably went like everyone else’s. I sort of wanted to know which way I was going so I checked in a lot, and while I was there I felt all the warmths and rages of all our earlier years. She vehemently shamed me and cursed me with words, some afternoons when I left her struggling and alone. She beamed joyfully, receding into her death mask, and told me she loved me before she went. Who can ever know why I was there – just because I promised to be fifty years ago.

I can’t find any comfort outside myself. If I offer ‘me’ as an assurance, I am simply nailed to the floor. I know people today who think my choices say something about themselves, as if some other’s person (or happiness, or future) is indelibly marred because I behave unexpectedly; as if anything outside this body you can touch right now with your fingers is more than just your own idea. How can I comfort you?

I have an eleven year old son. When I was his age, I threw a temper tantrum and my mother’s boyfriend asphyxiated me by squeezing me between his knees, saying ‘this is death.’ It certainly felt like it, until he released me briefly (saying ‘this is life’) and I gasped air and thought ‘oh thank you! thank you!’ – until he squeezed me into darkness again, finally letting me go and tossing me to the floor.

My mother watched.

This is just to say I have issues – and that issues don’t matter. You can’t look at me and have the vaguest notion of what you see. Did mommy scream at you when you were a kid? Did daddy hit you with a belt? Check in with an active listener and wrestle with your self disappointment. Get back to your desk and put something interesting on your calendar.

How much do I love you?

You have no idea.

I checked in with my mom every other day, and she never went away. Her body just fell off her. So I take it here I am, and things are getting pretty shaky already. I’m never going to wake up to be anything. This is already it. And I never got to hear the sound of my own voice.

I’m not contented. I’m not smug. But I’ve been beaten to shit by people who claim to love me – and ought to – just a little bit often for one pass through the needle’s eye. If you wonder what I can do for you, really – nothing. Except for this moment right now with these fingers and these intentions I can say ‘I love you.’

 

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