An Auspicious Anniversary

Tonight is the anniversary of my mothers’ death (well, so we assume, but it is the night we learned of it.) After years and years of emotional mental pain, fueled by her profound experiences in Belgium during the Holocaust, she made what was undoubtedly an UNBEARABLE decision not to usher in another new year. She has been dead for more than 1/2 my life.

Many of you were with me when I learned this, and watched me move about a party as if nothing had happened to forever change my world. Most of us were 21 or 22, and when I think back on it, and recently expressed to some of you, I can’t believe how awkward that must have been for everyone there.

Anyway, the point of all this is to say that I will honor her tonight as I have on many others, by in some way, letting her know, that I’m so sorry I couldn’t understand when I was 9-21 what her turmoil and thoughts were like. However, as an adult, a mother,I can only try to imagine what it was like to muddle through, manage to cook dinner, get me off to school, buy me my Brownie uniform and do the stuff that I now find myself doing, in the best way she could. And I have come to understand, that it WAS the best she could do, and when she sat with my head in her lap and played with my hair, I know that that was the purity of unconditional love.

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7 Comments

  1. Yeah babe, I remember. You were poised and calm, in the midst of the storm. And I hate to say it but, I was too drunk to feel awkward.

  2. I don't think I was at the party, but I seem to remember you calling me to tell me the news on New Year's Day. (Is that right?)At any rate, I don't recall it being "awkward," so much as new, uncharted, and very surreal. I was such a babe in the woods back then; nothing close to "tragic" had ever befallen me, so it was difficult, if not impossible, to relate to what had happened to you. I've been honored to be your friend these many years, and am happy to be reading your words again. Happy New Year, Gayle. Thanks for all the joy you've given me (for "over half my life" — wow…).

  3. "And hey, you never did tell me if you carried a torch for me or not. Oh, and also, you are the very first person I cried in front of after my mother died. More accurately, you were there, sitting on my bed, I think, when I cried for the first time after her death." — email to me from you on 12.13.08 (after more than 22 years since we last saw, or talked to, each other)"as for carrying a torch for you … what i remember is being teased on occasion into a quiet frenzy by your nonchalant innuendoes. there's a smiling close-up of your face in your facebook album (now used for this blog!) that hit me hard like déjà vu of a two decade old body blow when i saw it for the first time last month. it had then crossed my mind that i must've felt something for you back in the day and searched in your upturned face for clues before responding to your first message. i decided to let the mystery sleep while we reacquainted ourselves … but it's good to know that i was there for those tears when you needed someone to ease your cry. it should've been dan or greg or sonia or … why was it me?" — email from me to you on 12.17.08I'm so fried, Gayle. The last half of my 80s went "up in smoke" but I do remember how you looked away as you told me about your mother. Your face a slip-knot of emotions slowly undoing itself. I can't remember much else, I'm afraid, neither your tears nor my futile words; I just remember being completely there with you, and unable to leave even if I had wanted to. I can't recall if or how I consoled you. Did something I say make you cry, or something I didn't say leave a safe enough place for you to let the loss overwhelm you? Some day you'll have to tell me more of what you recollect in order to prompt my fractured, fried, recall so that 'first cry' for your mother retains, in some small way, a sense of witness. You are, Gayle, your mother's magnificient creature, as Amelia is yours; her presence, I imagine, inhabits the best you can do in Amelia's eyes, those lovely eyes bright with tears which have not yet fallen for you. It's been half a lifetime already and there's yet another half to go! We're all in the middle of it now, still not able to leave even if we want to.

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  5. "Your face a slip-knot of emotions slowly undoing itself." Jesus, Ruben. What a magnificent description. And again, I can't remember why it was you but you've captured it perfectly.

  6. Gayle – when we reconnected this past year and you reminded me about what happened at that party – my party – it brought back so much that I had forgotten. What I know the most, is that if you went through something big and bad today, and I was privileged to be there and be a part of it, I would be very different than I was then. I remember not knowing what to do, especially with an apartment full of revelers. In 25 years we have the gift of experience and maturity (perhaps?) that we didn't have then. I can hardly remember how I handled your loss, but I'm sure I didn't do it justice.

  7. Cool. Despite years of therapy, I still cannot forgive my mother. Go figure.

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