I’m sitting tonight in the darkness of night and quiet of my home. I am content with my life, and I wonder how you felt about yours. It’s something I’ve often wished I had asked you when you were alive. Did the life you ended up with have any resemblance to the life you dreamed you’d have when you were, say, 16 or 17, or even 18?
I am thankful for the photos I do have of you in your younger years, and of your early years of marriage. At one time, there was a Clarence in your life – I see him in a photo with you, and he has his arm around you. Who was Clarence? Was he someone you remembered wistfully in later years? What happened with him? Was he just not the right man, or was he the right man, but that realization struck too late?
Life was different when you were in your teens than when I was in mine. In my teens, we pretty much flew on emotions, without a lot of common sense or reasoning happening. At least that’s how it seems to me now that I am older. I see pictures of you posing in a bathing suit, smiling, posing like a model. But there was nothing of that attitude that I ever saw in you when I was a child and you were my mother. There wasn’t a lot of room in your life, it seemed, for fun.
Did you love my father when you married him? As years passed, was he the man you thought he was when you married him? In my memory, he behaved as he was born – the youngest child, the only boy in the family. A bit spoiled, a lot egocentric. You married before World War II, and I was born one week before World War II. My memories of those years when my memory begins were after the war, but I have a photo of you and my father with him in uniform. I know after the war both of you worked in the potato fields of North Dakota. At some point, probably about the time I was in second grade, he changed professions and became an asbestos insulator – a career that later became a death sentence.
That job meant frequent moves – we travelled to where the work was. Did you grow weary and begin to hate the constant packing, moving, unpacking in a new strange place where you seldom knew anyone? Emptying boxes, setting up a household, only to have to start the process over in a matter of months. I remember waking in the night in a new home, seeing the shapes of boxes in the darkness and thinking they were something other than boxes, something to be feared.
I cannot imagine living your life now. The constant upheaval, the lack of roots. I’m sure you bore the brunt of the work involved in moving. I think you got little in the way of thanks from my father. Dealing with his moods, his binges – alcoholism seemed to be a problem in his family – always the newness. Was this anything like you had imagined?
I suspect not. I suspect you anticipated a quiet life not far from your family or his. One in which you moved on, you raised your family, you developed your roots, your security. But I don’t know this for certain, and I wonder. I wish I had had the wisdom to ask the questions, to delve into your emotions and your mind.
You were my mother, and I loved you, yet there was never that closeness, that softness of a relationship with your mother that I can recall. I think you were weary and beaten, and I think you did mot receive the love and support one needs from a partner to relax, to be, to enjoy, To embrace. To ward off the bitterness that can come with the years.
I wish I had asked questions. I wish I had been more receptive. I hope you are happy now, and I hope your afterlife is all of what you want it and need it to be.