Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day Elegy

 
     It was on March 18th 2003 my mother took her own life. If you have been reading my blogging for a while, you understand I have mixed emotions about her. We had a strained relation for over a decade that reached the breaking point in 1997 after my stepfather died. She went over the edge and I had to leave to protect myself. To have some sort of semblance of a life. Yet I still kept coming home for holidays and the like even in spite of the fact it was more often than not the two of us eating leftovers at the video store on either thanksgiving or Christmas day. Towards the end, it was not even that. I would come home and watch her spend the entire time on a drunken bender. I swore in 2002, whether I had the natural instinct to go home for the holidays or not, I never would again. Maybe she sensed I meant it this time. She waited three months, but it is an unanswered question for me.
     Everyone grieves in their own way. She used to sit by my stepfather’s grave on a daily basis and talked to him. I swear even six years on she acted as though he died the day before. She was clearly losing her grip, but no one had the patience to help her when she did not want to help herself. One by one, we all left. I take a certain battle scarred pride in telling you I was the last one to go. Since her suicide, I have only been to her grave once. It was right before I went back to Virginia. I have never had the urge to revisit her final resting place. I guess I have always believed goodbye means goodbye. Oftentimes funerals are open casket. It has always creeped me out, but it is a psychological thing to see a loved one as an empty shell. It reminds you they are gone. We could not have this one open casket. I would have refused to have it that way even if circumstances had been better, but I have relieved that decision was taken out of my hands, just to preserve the last memory of her. More precisely, the memory of what she had become. She was not dead yet, but she was as much a shell then as he was in the chapel of that funeral home.
     I last saw my mother, alive but hung over, just a few days into January 2003. I was going to catch a ride back to Virginia with a classmate from North Carolina. Momma still fancied herself a closet drinker but there was no hiding the results at this point. I spent a year at home recovering from my first detached retina just before law school. It was the lowest point of my life and clearly contributed to my rough time at Regent University. She went on bender almost like clockwork. She would literally lay in her room for weeks at a time while I tried to figure out how to survive thal blind on my own until she straitened up. Finally leaving for law school in 2001 was a relief I cannot describe. I never in my life wanted to go to Virginia or Regent, but it was the furthest I could get away from her on short notice. I took the opportunity. Yet still I came back for the holidays. No matter how violent she got, no matter how abusive, no matter how cruel, I came back. Like I said above, I determined in my heart 2002 was the last time. I did not tell her that, but she knew it. We sat in a McDonald’s eating breakfast at 6:30 AM waiting for my friend to show up The night before, for the oddest reason, we played two games of Scrabble for the first time in years. I am reasonably sure those were the last gentle words we spoke to each other. I do not even remember saying goodbye or hearing it from her.
     I only spoke to her once between then and the time of her death. She called in the middle of February to tell me she was selling the house and asked me where I wanted my stuff to be stored. My jaw dropped, but only. I knew what was happening. It was akin to watching a car accident unfold. You watch it, you have enough time to know what is going to happen, but no way of stopping it. I told her there was no turning back on this. Do not make a rash decision. I knew good and well the only decisions she ever made were rash. It was all part of the hidden drinker in her. She needed people to know she was doing well. If she could not do that, well then she would just leave. She used to do all sorts of irrational things on a euphoria high. Big spending sprees, going on like a wild teenager, or finding some new man. At some point, she would come down, realizing what she had done, and tear on a huge drunk. She had been arrested a number of times for her acts during low points. Selling the house was the biggest and stupidest thing she had ever done on a high and I knew when she came down, she would match her action. Turn out I was very much correct. There was absolutely nothing I could have done about it. I even had to go through with the sell two weeks after she was buried. I assumed the fact the previous owner killed herself in the main closet would deter the buyer and let me keep the place. No such luck. I could have fought it. In hindsight, I wish I had. But I let it go because I thought the future would be so much brighter than the dreariness and pain that place brought me.
     Two things stuck out broadly in my mind the afternoon one of the few friends she had left tracked me down in Virginia to tell me she was dead. The first was whether she killed anyone else She did not, by the way. She had wandered into the now empty house days before. Evidently she sat on the floor in the pitch dark for the better part of a week before ending it all. I was not surprised. I was already calculating how to beat off the numerous vultures I am related long enough to sort everything out before they picked her and my bones clean. The second thing I thought about is how to deal with certain estranged family I had no real animosity for. The third was whether to slip out of Virginia without telling anyone from Regent. In hindsight, I wish I had. The final nail in that school‘s coffin was the number of people who ran up to me to ask, “So was your mother a Christian?” I guess I was supposed to answer, “Nah. She is burning in hell right now.. Good luck on your trial brief tomorrow.” My roommate at the time created some drama by taking a collection of money gathered up for me (Unbeknownst to me, I assure you.) and putting it into his personal checking account.. Somehow or another it slipped out, by speculation I assume, she took her own life, so there was that lovely Christian charity about me being somehow tainted because of it. Add in a morbid curiosity about my mother’s will and you can figure count Regent was a hive of unpleasant weirdos.
     But enough about all that. It is far enough in the past to no longer matter. What does matter is the memories that come bubbling to the surface in the middle of the night. Memories of when my mother was still my mother. Memories of her sitting by my hospital bed when no one else did. Memories of scrabble games, of weekends at the beach with just the two of us. Memories of eating supper on lap trays in front of the television. Even the mundane things have more meaning now than I ever thought they would. She used to cook all the time. Lemon pies, cookies, brownies, fudge. Whatever she did not cook, she bought. Right up until the end, there was always loads of food in the house. I never realized how much I cared about that until it was gone. Back in August when I had my obstruction, I could not eat solid food for the duration, but I had all sorts of strange cravings. I found myself raving things my mother used to make. That was one of the first times since her death I felt a deep sense off loss. That aspect of my mother had been gone years prior to her actual death, but I never stopped to mourn it or even recall how much I would miss it. It threw me into a very dark place that I have yet to leave.
     For whatever pain she caused, she was still my mother. There was a bond there no matter what. There were a lot of horrible times. I will not lie about it. There was one desperate moment when I started throwing my clothes in my newly bought car ready to drive off until I knew she could never find me. Young people unaware their parents’ feet of clay are not evil do things like that. Do not get me wrong about that either. My mother had an evil streak in her. Days after her funeral, I discovered a sister I never knew I had she abandoned as a toddler. But despite all that, I tolerated momma. I had fun where I could. We had fun where we could. We loved each other. We were not the Walton, but we loved each other. I always struggled through the bad times with her because I thought the future would be brighter and it would all be worth it. I now know better.
     I have whined enough about my present health status to not go into it here. I know my deep sense of loss oozes out of every word I write. No one has to tell me, although you frequently do. If I had known what the future was going to be like, I would have enjoyed the past more. What I terribly regret is not realizing how happy I should have been many more times than I was compared to now. There is nothing I can do about it now except mourn for my pat mistakes and wish fate had been a little less cruel to both my mother and me. For all that has gone before, I miss her. I miss her. She was the first of many great losses to befall me in the last decade and a spell.
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