Friday, March 28, 2008

25 Years

In the early pages of this blog, I wrote a letter to my mother, on the 24th anniversary of her death. It's hard to believe that a full year has since passed, and it's even harder to believe that I have lived a quarter of a century without her.

I can't claim to think about her every day anymore, but this time of year, my subconscious takes more control than I'm used to, and I begin to dream more regularly of my mother. Memories of her are closer to the surface this time of year, and I find myself thinking of her when I reach for a plate which she touched, or sit in the rocking chair which sat in our living room so many years. The drop-leaf table which resided in our dining room in Atlanta while I grew up now sits against my wall; there isn't room enough to raise the leaves, but this time of year, I find myself recalling those special occasions when we dined on it.

I wish all my memories were comforting ones, but I sometimes run across one which makes me wince, or gives me a shudder. Why did I say that to her? Why wasn't I kinder to her at that moment? Why was I such a sarcastic schmuck so often?

One of my deepest regrets is that my mother did not really get to know the adult me. That was entirely my fault; I was 26 when she died, and had lived at home all but 3 months of those 26 years, so I had plenty of opportunity. She once, rather ruefully, mentioned that we never did anything together, just the two of us, like going to the movies. Go to the movies with your mother? Such an outrageous idea had never entered my head.

I'd sacrifice quite a lot to go to the movies with her today.

Well, we did have a bit of a routine, once I turned 21. During those years in California, I think my mother was bored. Her children didn't need a lot of attention anymore, and she was far removed from the close friends she had made while living in Atlanta for 20 years. My father had huge responsibilities in his career, and we never expected him home much before 8. So, I would get home late in the afternoon, either from my job at Sears, or my waiter job, or my rehearsal, or just hanging out with Judy or Claudia, and I would bound upstairs to my room to check the messages on my private phone line, to read my mail, or just to continue my life.

Soon, I would hear my mother holler up the stairs to me: "Want a cocktail?"

Our cocktail hour really wasn't one, as we never had an actual cocktail. In those late years of her life, half a beer was just about all my mother could take, her body having been so ravaged by the cancer, and even more ravaged by its treatment. She didn't care about having a drink, she clearly wanted some adult interaction, and I was the only adult around. So, we would split a domestic beer (she taught me the trick of salting the beer in the glass to reignite the foamy head; I still do it!), and she would listen while I rambled on about the Sears Complaint Department or whatever else I wanted to talk about. In retrospect, of course, I wish I had spent those precious times letting her know more about the man I was becoming; she was clearly waiting for me to reveal more of myself to her. But I was a coward, and she was a lady, so...

I have a dear longtime friend who asked me recently what my views on religion are. He has made many very logical points about the irrationality of the concept of God, logic being the enemy of religion. I couldn't really answer him coherently. I am not in any way, shape, or form a religious person (I couldn't wait to turn 15 and thus be excused from the Sunday School which my parents forced on me throughout my childhood, but that was more from laziness than lack of belief), and I certainly don't think there is a grandfatherly figure with a white beard waiting for us at the end of our life.

And it can't be denied that the majority of the wickedness in the world, throughout history and today, has been caused, and is being caused, in the name of organized religion.

But there is comfort in the thought that there may be some kind of afterlife for the spirit, once the flesh gives out. There is solace in thinking that my mother's spirit lives on somehow, I hope someplace close.

Without that belief, even 25 years later, the loss would be too much to bear.