Southern Legitimacy Statement: Like many southerners, my mother grew up on a farm and canned a lot of food. Unfortunately aluminum pressure cookers were used on their farm and they canned tomatoes which are acidic. This lead to my mother having aluminum dementia as mentioned in the story.
A Fond Memory of Mother
When your mother dies, you remember the moments that passed between you. Those memories are often charged with emotion and laden with the weight of their private meaning. The tapestry of those memories is not just the cloth of your memories it is the fabric of your soul and a large part of not only who you are but who you choose to become or choose not to become.
On those days and special times when mothers are being lauded, I try not to think of my mother’s craziness. When I was young, I thought the craziness was from the Leukemia that almost took her. I was wrong.
I try not to think of how she was taken to an insane asylum for a few months when I was six or the things the neighbors said. Memories gather of the whispers and looks. I wave them away with a wave of my hand and determination bordering on magic. Those dark memories scatter and they do not always gather back together and whisper in the night.
A noise in the hall; my mother is trying to smother my sister in her sleep, again. It takes all the strength panic and adrenaline I can muster to pull my mother off my sister. I pretend not to think about that anymore but nearly sixty years later a noise in the hall can leave me listening all night.
From a sound sleep, the cold kerosene on my body woke me with a start. My mother was standing at the foot of the bed and trying to strike a match. I snatched the matches from her as I ran from the room. I sometimes wish I had a kerosene heater for when the power goes out during storms but a part of me deep inside would just as soon freeze. This is not the memory I reach for in those moments of celebrating a mother’s love.
I try not to remember the night, when I was in junior high school, my mother and I were having dinner just the two of us. Mother announces. “Your father is the head of all the mafia of the world. He has a transmitter in the basement he uses to control the Pulsars. That is how he signals them their orders.”
I respond calmly, “Show it to me.”
My mother responds angrily, “Its small and hides it.”
My still calm response, “Mom, if dad could build a transmitter that could control the Pulsars and it was so small that he could hide it in the basement he wouldn’t have to run the mafia he could just tell the world to surrender and we would have to.
Her eyes wide and wild she picks up a steak knife and with a firm overhand grip tries repeatedly to stab me in the face while shouting, “Don’t Think He Wouldn’t.”
I also try very hard not to think about the day I asked her why my brother and sister had music lessons, got to participate in multiple sports, and got almost anything they asked for. “Why can’t I have piano lesson or join a team?” I asked in a reasonable tone.
That was the day she explained to me why she hated me. “I guess you should know why I hate you. I had my bags packed to leave your father when I found out I was pregnant with you. I felt trapped. I blame you that I had to live with your father all these years.”
When I need to dredge up a fond memory of mother, to get through all the praises of mother’s love at some event, I remember the day I met my mother and my older brother for lunch at the local Chinese restaurant. The doctors had finally diagnosed why mother was crazy and it was killing her. Mother was had aluminum dementia. My brother was bringing her to town on an outing. When she and my brother walked up to the table my mother did not know who I was. She asked my brother coyly, “Aren’t you going to introduce me this handsome young man?” Some of you are feeling that such a comment was creepy coming from a mother to her son. In the grand Pantheon of my relationship with my mother it seemed almost …normal. We had a very pleasant lunch. The discussions were just small talk. Except the part where my brother mentioned that my mother didn’t have much longer. This my friends, may I call you friends? Not knowing you leaves me feeling that you are certainly closer to me than my birth family, friends this was the most pleasant memory I have of my mother.
At her funeral my older brother, as executor of my mother’s estate, did not see fit to list my sister or me as survivors of my mother. There was no mention that we had ever existed. My sister was furious. I simply wondered if he was right. I am not so certain we did survive her. My mother’s funeral mentioned my older brother as if he were an only child. Maybe he was. There was a point where I was standing in the graveyard by myself. The weather was overcast a storm was coming and there was a strong cold wind. I looked up at the branch of an old oak tree at the edge of the graveyard blowing in the wind. A lone raven landed on the limb. He looked me right in the eye. I was praying, or maybe just wondering my mind is not clear on that detail, when people who are crazy and evil die do, they get a fresh start? Does God forgive them and restore their mind? If so, do they regret the evil they did while they were crazy? The Raven looked me straight in the eye nodded his head up and down several times and then he flew away another dark whisper in my mind.