21 December 2012
The number isn't what freaks me out, although it's a challenge to utter it out loud. It has such a hard edge to it: forty-eight. There's no room for delusion in there, no soft consonants to lessen the blow, like forty-five. Forty-five is a sigh of acceptance, a shrug, faith in the future. Forty-eight brooks no such sentiment. Forty-eight knows time is running out. Forty-eight eyeballs your life, and in my case, finds it lacking.
So I spent the morning wrestling with forty-eight and the feeling that I am never going to accomplish my goals. My mother's death casts all of this in even greater relief, although she experienced what almost everyone would consider a complete life. She raised a family, had a career, travelled the world, loved her grandchildren. She was seventy-five when she died, which sounds old but is now less than thirty years away on my horizon. When I think how quickly the first thirty years of my life sped by in a rush of heat and noise and pain and laughter, the brevity of it makes my chest clench.
There are things I want to do, and many of them are time sensitive. I absolutely do not have enough years left to mold my boys into men. I talk, talk, talk, but I don't know how much is actually penetrating their brains through the obscuring fog of girls, sports, videos, girls, music, friends, girls, school, and girls. It's difficult to compete against the singular focus of the penis, and soon they'll leave me, unprepared.
I want to write and be published. I wish my mother could have experienced that with me. I am just starting to feel like I can write again, allowing myself that instead of thinking it's trivial. Now I have to find the words that have been smothered by exhaustion, strangled in my struggle to tamp down my grief.
I want to live in a wide, open space surrounded by grass and mountains.
I want the serenity to accept that I may never live in a wide, open space surrounded by grass and mountains.
I want to change the world.
And as I face the spectre of pulmonary fibrosis, the disease that killed my grandmother and my mother, I want more time.
I don't want to be forty-eight.
15 December 2012
And I am angry, very angry, because it's really hard to walk into a school and kill six adults and twenty children if you don't have any fucking guns. It makes it much more difficult to stroll through a mall in Oregon and shoot holiday shoppers if you don't have any fucking guns. It makes it nearly impossible to murder people in a movie theatre, a college campus, a house of worship, and on any street in Newark or Camden--which, mind you, we've accepted because our society remains just racist enough to cry over dead white children but not so much the hundreds of dead black boys--if you DON'T HAVE ANY FUCKING GUNS.
I understand that our country won't ever be gun free because I've had to listen to bullshit about constitutional rights to own firearms my whole damn life. But I'm over it, because you know what's going to happen now? I'm going to have to walk through a metal detector to go watch a movie. In addition to already being buzzed into my school, they'll wand me on my way to the front office. Now my children will have lock-down drills twice a month, to prepare for an event that should be unthinkable. Fuck you and your right to bear arms. What about my right to the pursuit of happiness? Is a life spent preparing for a massacre a happy one?
I'm sure any member of the NRA would gladly volunteer to explain their reasoning to me, but I'm not interested. I understand there are hunters. I understand there are ranchers. Great. But you don't need handguns or semi-automatic weapons to kill deer, or foxes in your hen house. And don't even waste my time with the fucking blahdy blah blah about this doesn't happen in states where everyone has carry permits. Ask Gabrielle Giffords how that turned out.
In the next few months, after our self-centered partisan politicians pitch us over a fiscal cliff, the gun control discussion will start again. People will talk about how this latest gunman was unstable, how he had a history of mental illness, how the guns weren't even his. Fuck you. Obviously, sane people don't storm an (insert your massacre location here) and kill our (circle your choice: children, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, neighbors, community leaders).
Despite the obvious holes in this argument, I predict that nothing will change. Apparently, we don't have the wherewithal to stand against a vocal minority that continues to hold our rights hostage, and the lawmakers who sop up the blood on their hands with lobbyist cash. And because of that, our children will continue to be murdered.
Now who's insane?
04 December 2012
The other night the Captain told me that Mom was the best reason to keep dating me. As some of you may recall, our early relationship was a bit tumultuous, but Mom knew we loved one another. Frankly, I think during that time she may have loved the Captain more than me, so she was determined to keep us together. Even when the Captain had given up on me, he still loved my mother enough to accept an invitation to her wedding and, as photographic evidence proves, to almost dance with her!
Mom called the Captain one more time, to join her at the intervention that saved my life. It was her unique gift to see the truth of a person, even if it was hidden beneath hair dye, black leather and bravado. Hers was an open, accepting heart and she loved me even when I was more burden than blessing.
She was a spiritual person, comfortable in her faith and religion, but open-minded in a truly Christian fashion. She was the embodiment of Jesus’directive to love thy neighbor. Her whole life was spent in service to others: first as a nurse, where her healing touch brought comfort to countless patients, and later as a teacher where she taught the principles of her nursing profession.
These are just job titles and can’t fully convey the depth of her influence on our lives. In fact, all her jobs were an extension of her most meaningful one. She was a wonderful mother—strong, caring, and most important, resilient. Mothering is not for the faint of heart—it requires a dichotomous blend of stubborn resolve and surrender, soaked in love. Mom got the mix just right and shared it with everyone—neighbors, co-workers, friends, her children, our friends, her students, and eventually with her grandchildren and their friends, too.
I could share any number of personal stories about my life with Mom, as could all of you. The details would be different, but the theme would be the same. She was a welcoming, warm, forgiving, joyful presence in our lives. She was love. And while I will weep for her physical absence from my life, there is still tangible proof of her in the world. The lessons she taught us—the important ones about respect and kindness, strength and serenity—will resonate for generations to come.
We are the bodies that carry her now. If we all take the piece of Mom that is within us, share the love that she gave us, it becomes universal and infinite. And, in so doing, Mom lives forever.