My mother passed away 10 years ago today. September 22, 2005. But it is only now that I can actually publish this.
I feel it now, as I felt it then. I will hopefully post this on the 22nd, but I start feeling, and thinking before that; the foreboding returns to the soul. I know that her soul is free. I finally believe and understand that – it has only taken ten years to be at peace with knowing she is at peace. My soul still feels the loss; is a soul ever really “free”? Or will there always be the “Red Thread” that Lucy Kaplansky sings about?
I wish I could remember her being happy. I want to believe that somewhere inside, underneath her grief, her anger, her sorrow, her opinion that life was quite unfair (I think at the end she would have actually said “fuck”) she could glimpse solace and calm. Maybe even Peace. I knew when she was with her granddaughter Emily she was happy; perhaps it reminded her of happier times in life. She exuded pure joy. My daughter has had to grow up without the grandmother who truly revelled in her existence; her grandfather gone many years before her birth. My grandmother made my birthday dresses and Halloween costumes. Em’s last homemade costume was when she was only four. Of course, homemade isn’t really cool….just like to my mother a “store bought” dress was an aspiration growing up.
I digress. What I think of is ten years, a decade, a truly measurable chunk of time. I look older. Ten years gone like a blink. Emily is 17. The only true accomplishment I can feel during this time is my daughter – strong, confident, beautiful. Career? Toast. What parent can truly have a career and consciously parent at the same time? Whatever my failures as a parent, my daughter glows; I am so proud.
Was my mother ever really proud of me? At 57 years of age, what does it really matter? It does. Because deep down inside, I wonder what I might have ever done that warranted such approval; except for raising my daughter the best I could with what I was at the time.
My mother’s death was a turning point in my life. From that point forward, I was simply never the same. Is it like that for all women? I was never so confident again. It felt like my foundation of who I was and what I believed crumbled; only by keeping Em going kept me going. I loved; I married; I lost. I became broken and raw, lost track of time, never understood the world as I thought I had before. Adrift from any safe harbour, I understood time only in the right here and right now which became a Zen blessing, except for the foreboding that being unhinged was to become my life story, not in a sense of floating like a reed through water, but in the sense of falling through any safety net ever constructed without the satisfaction of ever landing, no matter how hard, and no matter in how many broken pieces that will never get put back together in any recognizable fashion. At least anything I will ever recognize.
The really ridiculous thing I did in the ten years since her death was to not recognize that I didn’t know who I was or felt, and instead of trying to figure it out (these things were not encouraged in my family) I adhered to the soldiering mentality of moving forward. It was all I knew. You had a role and that was it. Oldest daughter. Go to Uni. Be successful. Dress well. (Especially “dress well”.) No, you are not allowed to feel anything in this family. You simply smile because dammit, you’re happy because I want others to know what a happy family we are. Because if you aren’t that will make me, your mother, look bad and that simply can’t happen. So go to your room and stay there, until you can come out with a smile on your face.
And so I lived in Paris and sent Emily to the bilingual school, fell in love and tried again to be successful even though there was nothing left to base that on. Except now, instead of my mother’s expectation, it was expectation of my husband because, well, that is part of the deal. Did you know that when you marry a Frenchman, you sign a legal contract? Guaranteeing you will take care of his parents (because yours are gone) and that even though he accepts in a contract he will care for your daughter too, he can walk away and not honour what he signed? But the contract was based on my being successful, too, and when I couldn’t – because well, nannies are £15 an hour and what do you do in the summer and it goes on and on – and the only contract I can understand is a contract of the heart and I can’t bear to know how I am not worthy to be loved; to be held in such disapproval, because it was just like being my mother’s daughter – that I let it go when I should have fought even if it was to just fight for my daughter’s dignity when mine was in tatters.
More digression. I watch the film, Interstellar, thinking that perhaps somewhere someone is travelling that will send me the message I need to hear and I will receive it in time to enter the next phase of my life with a grace I so desperately lost in the last 10 years. That the message will transmit before the tesseract closes. That whatever Red Thread I am linked to survived into a fifth dimension, and that being is finding a way to transmit love and grace, like gravity.
If nothing else, I fulfilled my duty of being a witness to a life lived, if not as fully as it had been intended, but as fully as it could have been lived given the pain she must have endured through her own broken contracts. And perhaps I will find my own redemption with the balance of my life, through witnessing the life of my own daughter.
At the end of the day – what else do we truly have?