I just texted my sister on the first anniversary of mom passing. I noted that our mom was not a stand out mom. But she was a good enough mom for me. They certainly do not do movies or write books about moms like mine. She was generally quiet and solitary throughout her last years. But she was loyal, moral and good-humored. Frugal but generous. By living 102 years she endured more losses than I can comprehend. She was not very affectionate but from what I saw of my grandmother, it would have been amazing if she was. I think my sister Karen and I taught her to say “I love you”. I say that because I do not remember her ever saying it until later in life and we had repeated it to her a thousand times.
I owed her in many ways. She was frequently called to schools to discuss my behavior. She shrugged off my being flunked in my religious classes at the synagogue. When I was ten, I vividly recall how she tried to save me from a significant beating I was getting from my dad and she paid for her intervention. I started running away at 13. She found me hours later wandering the streets. Where else was I to go. She delivered me to psychologists and psychiatrists in an attempt to keep me from completely unraveling before I could turn 16.
I owed her for getting me out of police lock-up twice, going to court, paying an attorney on my felony charges. I owed her for laughing at neighbors who complained to her about my smoking pot (long before pot was fashionable). I owed her for the many years I was a teenage runaway and those nights she spent sleepless, crying and worrying if I was dead or alive. I owed her for helping me pay for law school.
Maybe I owed her for keeping the family together when every fiber of my being cried for its end. Why do I assume that economic insecurity would have been preferable to physical safety. The beatings and terror are the ground from which many a rich and humorous anecdote have sprouted. They shaped me in ways I could not have predicted and made me the lawyer of choice for persons who did harmful things for no apparent reason.
I sucked at being her child. I was getting better at it every year and I am glad that I was a much better son in the final reel. I wish it had occurred to me sooner to be a better son but it did not! (I will credit Ajahn Panumat, a Thai Buddhist monk with starting me on the path on my 55th birthday. He told me to call my mom and thank her as but for her, I have no life.) I would be a shallow person indeed if I did not recognize the neglect and indifference I showed towards my mother’s feelings much of her life.
So to pen an homage to the departed seems to be something we do to assuage our grief and our guilt. I do not have much of either in great abundance but I have my share of both.