Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What I'll never know

If there is a heaven, for my mother's sake, I hope heaven has a skylight roof, six escalators, seven hair salons, eight movie theaters, ten shoe stops, a Sears, Broadway, and a few furniture stores named after famous early American patriots. That might bring her eternal peace.

I never understood mom's love of the grand indoor shopping malls, but then, I never understood my mom. This is true. And the lack of understanding was mutual. We directed eye rolls in each other's general direction from the day I screamed my way onto this planet.

We practiced a certain amount of unkindness upon one another. The reason for this escaped me then, escapes me now. Sure, I have theories, everyone has theories, but the thing is, I could have risen to the occasion, but didn't; been the bigger person in this relationship, but wasn't.

So we gave up on one another very early in the game.

It wasn't until she had Parkinsons that we played nice. Me, because what kind of a shit wouldn't treat someone with this disease kindly, and she -- she had way too much on her plate to bother chewing over an ancient grudge. And both of us, because we only saw each other about once a year.

Not that we ultimately, at the bitter end, liked each other. That Titanic of childhood and parental bonding or non-bonding rarely swings a 180. Still, I do realize I've spent way too many hours in this life thinking about my mother. And after all those ill-spent hours, I've reached a conclusion: I don't believe she screwed with me intentionally. More likely, accidentally -- incidentally. Perhaps inevitably, and from her point of view, quite forgettably.

That's the thing with most intimate relationships -- you generally don't press the save button on similar memories. And why a certain one means so much to you and so little to the other is probably more significant than the incident in question.

But back to the malls.

Our relatives from Europe would visit. As social and cultural coordinator, Mom didn't put the Getty or a national park or the Art Institute on the docket. She piled all who were willing in the Monte Carlo and drove to cathedrals of consumerism called something like West Haven Galleria, Grand Traverse Mall.

I remember one uncle preferred to stay back at our home and play bocce balls. Bocce balls is a tedious, pointless game. We got quite good at it, my uncle and I.

When mom and relatives returned, they didn't drag in trunks full of plunder. Maybe just a modest upscale bag or two. While mom loved the malls, relished the act or the process of shopping, it rarely led to an actual purchase. Same with the relatives. After all, they had shops, likely better shops, back home in Europe.

When the relatives left, so did I. I think the only time mom and I felt some degree of comfort in each other's company was in the leave-taking ritual. We waved, and I ran through the airport like running for my life. When my plane taxied down the runway, I sighed with relief, mostly. And unexamined regret.

Where did we go wrong?

Wasn't there a time? There was a time. When you came to my first grade class, dressed in a beige velvet suit, gold and pearl earrings, with a solje pinned to your white linen blouse. I don't know why you were there -- maybe to talk about Norway or painting, art. But beautiful more beautiful than any movie star. I looked around the room and saw everyone adored you. But you didn't belong to them. You were mine, in all your glamour, and I owned you. After your speech, I grabbed your hand and dragged you out of the classroom to the hallway, tugged at your shoulder so I could kiss your cheek. I tried to tell you something important, but my feelings out-sized any words I knew. "I just love you so much." That's the best I could muster. You looked surprised, but not displeased. Touched a cool hand to my forehead.

This is also true.

Was there a love between us, a love up for grabs? Did you not see me reach for it? Did you reach for it too, when I wasn't looking?

32 comments:

  1. Oh my. I don't know what to call that, but it was lovely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jim. I guess I'd call it catharsis. I finally cried for my mom.

      Delete
  2. I wonder how common it is to love without liking. Very, probably. I know that airport run, that sigh of relief and regret. But if there was a time, a sweet one, it's so far back my memory has hidden it, like something put in a box with the wrong label on it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "love without liking" - something I've tried to put into words before but failed to do so.

      Parkinsons is so difficult. Thanks for this piece.

      Delete
  3. Forgiveness. I wish my sister could learn this. I believe our parents did the best they could with what they'd been given.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I do think we tend to expect too much of them.

      Delete
  4. Call me a sap, but I'd love to see a photo of her.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Love is such a complicated word and concept.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Love is such a complicated word and concept.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This sounds so autobiographical!.. omg, the things I could tell u, and u'd understand... I know for a fact mine favored my brother over me.. others have told me its an Asian thing...(mother's approving more of their son's)... but in reality, its a mother-daughter struggle she had.. I was the opposite of her- I didn't have low self esteem, didn't have to be center of attention.. and the list goes on... she played it up to the end.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I want to leave a comment, but whatever I have to say will be too little or too much. We'll go with too little: Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yes, it is so complicated, that mother-daughter thing, and for each of us so different, yet so hauntingly similar. I know my sister and I had different takes on the Mom-problems. Now, she being gone for about 13 years, we can get a laugh or two, and maybe have greater insight and understanding too. On the lighter side, my sister happily ceded custody of the treasured Blue Vase to me because I "put up" with her [i.e. she lived near by] in her last nine years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You shall, and I think you will like it. Art pottery, Newcomb College, small, cypress design. And it isn't really blue, but that's what we call it. Right after my previous post, I called my sister, and we laughed. She told me that mother solemnly informed her that she and our father were perfect people and we should certainly strive to be just like them. And we laughed again. Note: Mother tried and failed to sell that vase at a yard sale for $4.50. The price is still penciled on the bottom. She who laughs last.......

      Delete
  10. I'm so glad for the breakthrough, Karin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not sure what you mean, but -- all right.

      Delete
  11. Try being an only child who is not the favorite child. And yet, in their last 8 years, when they needed something accomplished, I got on a plane and went. I could have forgiven everything had they been doting grandparents, but a friend told me after my mother died that my mother said that if I had wanted her to remember my children's birthdays, I should have stopped with 2 or 3. Some things can't be mended, and we have to move on. I felt that your tribute echoed much of my life's lack of understanding with my mother. (I actually understood her, but she never "got" me.) Lovely post, Karin.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Yes, my first reaction was, "What no picture?" Relationships are funny things. At first glance they seem simple. 'Now, everyone play together'. But they are complex. Like a rubric's cube of life. I was never good at them, but every once in awhile talking to someone, or watching TV, some one would scream at me, "Hey, look what you did." And the pieces had fallen together. Facinating to step back and watch... if you can. Sometimes bring tissues.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I thank my lucky stars for the relationship I have with my mum. I have no wisdoms to offer, being clueless as to what it must have felt like for you. But while you were two very different people, she passed on her beauty to you. High fives for that. And for some weird reason, I can see you looking pretty awesome in a beige velvet suit with your hair up. Have a lovely weekend, KB. Hugging animals solves all matters of the heart. x0

    ReplyDelete
  14. Oh, it's fine Shell. You know I plunder my childhood to explore certain thoughts and ideas.

    ReplyDelete
  15. As your friend said, I want to leave a comment too, but I am not sure how to express my thoughts about the
    relationship and understanding between family members...
    But I'm sure you write very well, Karin!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Finally got up the nerve to read this. See how you are?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Maybe we talked about Ellen Snortland's one-woman show about her failure to connect with her mother, Now That She's Gone. Not that this has anything to do with your mother, but Ellen concluded, after her mother passed away, that she likely had Asperger's and just didn't know how to talk to her daughter.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Ah, mothers and daughters. Your words are one version of the truth for so many of us. I tried until I was thirty to please mine and it almost killed me, literally. Then I had to let go of that dream and be true to myself, and she asked me if I couldn't just be my old self around her...because she didn't know what to do with the real me. I made peace with losing the relationship I wanted to have and hoped when my dad was gone that she and I could find each other. It has been almost 19 years and that's not going to happen. We are pleasant acquaintances with each other but that's it. My mother just turned 80. Mothers are supposed to take care of their children but they can only do that if someone took care of them....

    ReplyDelete
  19. The way I see it -- women aren't mothers, and men aren't fathers -- they're just girls and guys who passed the 20- or 30-mark, and just found themselves sometimes happy and sometimes drowning in society's expectations.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I was over at Leaves of Grass and decided to click on your name because it included Alta Dena in it - which is near Pasadena, an area I like to visit and I lived in Alta Loma for 30 years. Anyway, .... I LOVE your writing. I definitely will be back for more. Such an interesting post.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I LOVE the way you write about your life (and everything else). I was raised to believe that blood is most definitely NOT thicker than water. I wish I didn't though...

    ReplyDelete