West Hartford, Connecticut ~ special thanks to my mom for her two random quotes that inspired me.
My mom doesn’t always make a whole lot of sense. Her days, her nights, are a series of dreams and visions, punctuated by nurse’s visits, meals, medicines, trips to doctors’ offices and hospitals. Not fully conscious, not yet unconscious, it may be a repeated phrase or directive from some half-remembered alternate reality — “Don’t forget to close the door!” over and over again. What door? Nobody knows.
But every once in a while, she’ll surprise my dad and me. This time, I had come for a short visit, and I was just holding her tight, my face pressed against hers. That’s all I can do, really, and even though I know it means the world to her, it never feels like enough.
“You gave me my mother’s cheek, which I needed so very badly.”
She was eight years old when she lost her, suddenly alone in a house of men. There were her three older brothers — Joe, Phil and Ray — and her father who, despite the blood connection, I would have to say was not a very nice man. The 1920s were a different time — that’s what I keep telling myself when I go searching for answers. Being now the woman of the house, she was suddenly saddled with the chores of cooking and cleaning, of caring for the family. And her father, instead of trying to replace the lost nurturing, sought to replace that which he himself had lost. No amount of shock or grief, no paucity of wisdom excuses a man from such a crime, the betrayal of a child’s trust. Did he not feel any degree of shame or remorse as he drove his taxi through the streets of Brooklyn or during any of his other odd jobs? It’s hard to say.
Nothing much is known beyond the facts. No one ever spoke of it. The details my dad and I needed, to help us understand what we were up against, were a family secret and will not be forthcoming from her three brothers, now dead and buried. The eldest, Ray, whom I frequently butted heads with in my teens, didn’t know or knew and turned the other way. It wasn’t until my strict and straight-laced great aunt, his sister, discovered this and took my mother to live with her family in Revere, Massachusetts, that the cycle was finally broken. As much as I hated this severe woman who insisted I turn off my radio when I slept at her house, I’ll be forever in her debt. Though the damage that would last a lifetime had already been done, it lit a spark that built into a small fire which now grows inside me.
And what can be done for her? Through a plethora of stuffy men in white jackets and framed documents with seals on their office walls signifying absolutely nothing, not much. But through the love and deeply bred understanding of her daughter, maybe something. Let us work together so this shame, this sense of loss, this loss of self does not pass to another generation or into another lifetime.
“It was you who pulled me out of myself and made me wake up to life.”
Right back atcha, mom.