Friday, April 22, 2016

S is for Single Mom #atozchallnge

Not the most flattering shot but she'll deal with it.

It occurred to me I've never told you about my mother.  There was another health scare this week in which I spent several hours staring out a window in a numb haze.  "It's not time", I'd whisper.  "It will never be time..."  

I thought I'd introduce my mother, Jacqueline to you.  She isn't a character out of a movie like my father though she has her version of crazy.  Sometimes I think she thinks I don't appreciate her enough.  Today is her mother's birthday, by the way.  Her name was Constance, she's my greatest saint. 

When my parents split my mother struck out on her own with little help from anyone.  We lived in these little towns with good schools that, compared to my Brooklyn, seemed like the frontier.  She worked all day to make sure we had the roof, the clothes and the meals.  She had a car that wouldn't start or stop.  She made sure we had chores (which sucked) and had dinner as a family.  We wore sweaters in the winter and hot water was always a gamble to keep costs down.  She kept us away from TV and encouraged us to read by taking us to the library.

Looking back with no small shame I can say I complained the whole time.  It wasn't easy.  But it was easy to take for granted.  It never occurred to me how hard my mother worked or what dreams she sacrificed.

My mother was a former flower child who turned me on to music and art, flowers and reading.  She was everything made of color and sunshine.  The more I grew to think I was like my father, the more I found hidden pieces of her in me bubbling to the surface.  She'd sing with me as a child and take me to the beach.  She taught me to find people in crisis and help.  She gave me my favorite song, Dear Prudence which is the one thing in this life that calms me.  She taught me how to see beauty in everything from cracks in the sidewalk to the leaves on the trees.  I don't have any crazy stories about her, she was too busy surviving. 

While I process how close the inevitable seemed this week, she's gone to the beach with her misfit friends; the ones on the fringe, the Creatives and the Mad Ones of Kerouac's fables.  I used to shun them until I realized I'm so much like her and them.  That every creative impulse I am is her and all the art I make or words I write come from the soul of her that lives in me.  Sometimes I think she doesn't know just how much of me is her and that without her, I'd be lost. One day, I will be lost. 

I'd like to share with you a piece of a letter I wrote her after I'd lost a friend to addiction. Say it while you can because there won't always be tomorrow.

"I thought on recent events and realized that I have a soft spot for the people in crisis; the humbled scruffy survivors drifting almost unnoticed like angles among the hurried and the entitled.

For all the crazy things I got from my father, you taught me something entirely different. You were surrounded by addicts of all kinds in recovery.  You never ignored them.  You found the people who were still alive inside, fought their battle and  were ready to let their light shine.  These were the people I was surrounded by as I spent my time in your care. Never think for a moment it was time ill spent for I am one of those damaged souls always striving to be better.  I see from you and all you've given me that while the heart and spirit are fragile things they are also resilient and magnificent things cast by the hands of saints and angels.  These are the people I'm drawn to.  Because of you I will never be silent when someone hurts.  I will always extend my hand to one on their knees. Just as you would and never for my own gain.  That's you in me.

I can never repay you for what you've given me. I can never thank you enough for the life you gave me or the sacrifices you made. You may think I take them for granted but I remember all the hours sitting on wooden benches in stuffy halls while you filled out welfare forms. I remember having to wear two sweaters because you couldn't afford heating oil. I remember every moment you swallowed your pride to make sure we had something. I also remember with great fondness the $5 pizza we'd get on Tuesday's because it was a cheap treat. I remember more than you may think I do, more than you may want me to but know I wouldn't trade a minute of it if it meant becoming someone else, someone other than your son. 

You may never know what it means that I am not just someone you cared for, that I am an extension of you. I came from you and I am, in many ways, the continuation of you. I try with every day not to let you down or to let that fall into obscurity. In knowing me, I want people to know the best of you and I wanted you to know that."

Don't get me wrong, she's not perfect and she drives me crazy but I'm the luckiest man in all of history.  If nothing great ever comes from my existence I can say of all the people who have ever been and will ever be, I got to be her son.  

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  1. I can see so much more of her in you now. Breath taking tribute to a living legend and to a woman I admire because of all you've shared. I know she had it rough but she did it. She's an inspiration! You are loved from a far Ms. Jacqueline

    1. Thank you, Kimmy. I knew you could relate and I'm glad you see her in me.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you. Love to you as always, darling.

  3. This made me cry. As a mother, if my children ever wrote me such beautiful words, I'd melt with pride and my heart would feel like exploding. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Katie, as usual, you made my day.

  4. Thank you my son...
    I am teary and oh so proud of who you have become!