Thursday, December 2, 2010

Now I Get It

I think about my mother a lot.  She has been gone for many years, but I feel I am still working out my relationship with her--trying to find the truth of it, as it were.  Did I really "get" her?  I was sure she didn't "get" me, but now that I am "of a certain age" I'm beginning to think she perhaps understood me better than I thought.  I certainly hope so, because if she did there's a chance she might have forgiven me for all the difficulties I brought into her life.

Everyone gets a cold; it's one of the inconveniences of life.  It hardly qualifies as a major life crisis, yet when you're in the throes of one, nothing is more important than how miserable you feel.  So too, everyone gives their parents fits.  One of the givens of family life is conflict, and that conflict is a two-way street, with both parents and their children providing their fair share.  Out of this conflict comes guilt, the low-grade fever that blunts happiness.  I assume everyone feels something like this, so what's the big deal?  A cold, guilt--they're ubiquitous, so why dwell on them?  I think often of Tolstoy's first line in Anna Karenina: "Happy families are all alike.  Unhappy families are each unhappy in their own way."  (Forgive the undoubtedly inexact quote.)  Since I've taken up this blog to get things off my chest and to try to figure out my life, I'm taking license to indulge in self-examination and giving myself permission to be solipsistic, so, gentle reader, be warned.  My feelings--well--feel unique to me.  They are most interesting to me.  If they are of interest to you, so much the better.  The great thing about blogs is that they're not assigned reading (at least I don't think so).

I could cite chapter and verse of my growing up years, and maybe someday I'll lift the lid a bit on some of the more interesting passages (is that a mixed metaphor?)  What concerns me here is the way I feel as if my shadow is gradually filling in the shadow laid down by my mother, the one I have lived beneath since I had memory.  I remember her telling me that after she retired she had too much time to think.  I had no idea what she meant, and I still don't know what passed through her mind.  She never confided in me, so I can only guess what apparently troubled her.  Now I am retired, and I think I'm beginning to understand a little of what she might have meant.

 Here's what I hope: That my mother understood that my adult life was like spinning plates atop sticks.  Remember those from the Ed Sullivan Show?  (Only if you're a geezer like me.)  So much energy and attention goes toward keeping the whole show on the road that it's hard for anything else to catch your attention, let alone hold it.  I lived far from my parents and saw them on average twice a year for a week each time.  That is nothing!  Of course my mother had time to think; she had 50 weeks a year to do nothing else.  So one of the things I feel guilty about is the distance I allowed to exist between me and my parents over decades.  One of my horrors is being lonely in old age, and I am afraid my parents often were.  How do you apologize to people who are no longer alive?  And don't tell me they're in heaven where they see and know all.  I wish that were true,  I deeply wish it, but I know it isn't so.