Saturday, May 5, 2007

Mother's Day

He has a right to privacy. His personal flaws, so easy to mock, ought not to be held up for ridicule. Dignity that rises from insecurity is nevertheless earned. A man should be judged by what he appears to be. But a man who has a family is no longer just a man. Men without children are boys, mostly. A man with a family is a father, and that is something altogether different.

When I was in high school he set himself up in a Hollywood sort of career. He changed his name to something on a par with Winnie-the-Pooh. It's too absurd for me to be specific. He instructed me to call him by some made-up first name, and to say I was his brother. No one was allowed to know he was married. My mother had to sneak around the house when he had clients. Then all of a sudden they got divorced. She was out in a week. Out of his house. Don't ask. Three days later a girl moved in. She was one year older than me -- long straight seventies hair, slender, very pretty. I could hear them fucking. From down the street. Way down the street. As I ran through the nighttime canyons, they echoed with the sound of it. I didn't think any of it was right.

Well all of that's just kind of weird. What I noticed at the time was that when somebody would make a yo mama joke, for the first time it stirred some emotion in me. Before that, my mother had been secure. Now, in middle age, when she had been thrown away, she needed to be defended. I never told her about the younger woman.

I'll be sending my son an email, reminding him of Mother's Day. My former wife was a very good mother, to a little boy. I'll always be grateful to her for that. She broke my heart, but I'm sure I broke hers as well. The tenderness of those scars must be more sweet than bitter, though. I wasn't the man she needed. It may be that no woman could give me what I need. Then again, she gave me a son.

As a teen, my son split his time between our two households. He probably spent more time there, because the demands were less. But he would flee to me, and spend hours venting his frustration with her. He'd tell me that she would bad-mouth me. She'd claim I had thrown plates at her. Yeah, that's just my style. But he had too much awareness to be damaged by such nonsense. We'd forgive her. We'd laugh.

Now she's in a far off country. A different country than my son. He sent me an email a few weeks ago. Sorry to annoy you, but did you include the camel bak in the package to my mom? She keeps harassing me about how she didn't get it. And how she's sick, and she doesn't know how to take some of the pills, and how the melotonin I sent wasn't as good as some other kind, and how she can't take omega fatty acids for some crazy reason, and how I ask her for things and she sends them to me (even though I never ask for anything, because I can buy what I want, and when she does send me a package it's all chocolate and candy and photos of a crow). Am I ranting? I think she might be mildly insane.

I just have to laugh. Sorry, son, for giving you a crazy mom. But she was the best mom in the world, to a little boy -- generous and joyful and filled with possibilities. She has, alas, a problem with masculinity. Well, who doesn't. But she is his mother. Once during the trauma of that marriage's dissolution, while I was disintegrating with pain, my own mother said to me, "No matter how you feel, she will always be the mother of your son." That was bracing. It was wise. It was what I needed to hear.

See? We're all crazy, sometimes. My father, and my former wife, and my son, and me. Some more than others. When we can, we must laugh about it. When we can't, we must forgive. When we can't do that, we have to remember that we can never escape the reality that these people will always be important to us, and we must come to some sort of accommodation with that fact.

I haven't seen or heard from my former wife since my son's graduation. Five years ago. I do expect I'll see her again, some time. At my son's wedding, on that distant day? Birthdays of grandchildren? It's been that long since I saw my father -- ran into him by chance just before my boy left for the army. I'm over her. I wish her well. As for my father, well, let's just say that my son has had to face nothing like the issues that I had to deal with. She always looked out for him. She was a true parent, and the fact that there is a day set aside on which he might remember her -- and when we might remember all these mothers who continue to care about us -- this is a good and a beautiful thing.

Mother's Day is easy. Forgiving them, when there may be a need for it, should be easy. Most likely, we're the ones who need forgiving. At worst, it balances out. At best ... well, at best we find something to laugh about, and let laughter remind us to love.


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