Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

I lost my mother a few years ago (it was at the mall, between the Orange Julius and the 5-7-9, rim shot). No, she passed away, and so this day becomes, for me, more one of remembrance than of celebration.

This will not be one of those essays that tell you to treat your mother well, to value her while she's still here...not because you shouldn't, just because you can read that anywhere, especially today. No, what I would like to urge people to do is to try to see their mothers, whether they're still around or not, as humans, with the strengths and weaknesses of all humans.

You see, I had issues with my mom, serious life-shaking issues. When she passed away, we were not on the best of terms, and I have probably felt some guilt over that...but only briefly. I have also probably blamed her for that (which is not wholly unjustified)...but only briefly.

Because to see blame or guilt requires "shoulds," a set of assumptions as to what the relationship with a mother should be. And applying that set to the real person who was my mother somehow diminishes her, reducing her to a television mom who plays a certain role in my life, and I in hers, and everything should play out the way it would in a Hallmark Hall of Fame very special presentation.

But I'm not, say, Kyle Chandler, and my mom wasn't Ellen Burstyn, and we didn't have a scriptwriter creating false conflicts and even more false resolutions so we could achieve closure by the time the credits rolled. We were real people, struggling with our lives, our places in the world, our other relationships, our weaknesses, and, every so often, our lives would intersect in ways that were positive, as we built each other up, and, sometimes, we would bring out the worst in each other, as we could use our mutual knowledge to try to ease our own pains by hurting the other.

My mom was an interesting person, but not in the cliched ways. She lived through the Depression but had no interesting life lessons to convey from her untroubled passage through that decade. My father passed away when my brother and I were quite young; rather than creating him as a symbol of veneration, Mother never got over the hassles his death created for her, and her anger prevented us from ever getting a clear picture of the man.

But she was also a pioneer of feminism, not by choice after consciousness-raising, but by necessity because she had to support her family, however resentful she might have been of having to do so. She was ruggedly independent past the point of stubbornness, and was admired and appreciated for that by a wide range of people (even if her sons often failed to reap the benefits of that attitude).

Quite frankly, there are things about her I don't particularly miss - I have not, even at the remove of several years, been able to chuckle at her more obnoxious qualities. She could be a royal pain in the, well, one area of the body is not enough to describe the irritation. I am not now at, and may never get to, the point where the negatives become endearing.

But she wasn't a symbol, and I can't blame her for not being one. She wasn't June Cleaver or Margaret Anderson, but she was one fierce lady, and I'm glad I knew her, and I miss her on this Mother's Day. So, Mom, wherever you are, have an extra martini and an extra cigarette on me.

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