It’s my mother’s 85th birthday. She’s far away in Colorado and she’s far away … she’s had Alzheimer’s for a few years now. I can’t call, she doesn’t know me, and there is nothing to say at this point. She and I haven’t had it smooth … she always looked at me a little circumspect from the time I can remember, who is this odd duck living in my house, a little too loud, a little too demanding, a little too, too. She was brought up by Swiss immigrant farmers in the northwest, Idaho. She valued practicality and austerity, two qualities I just never took up. But her influence got in, her fears, her cautiousness, her modesty, so that when I moved outside the lines I got confused … still do. Should I go this way or that? Should I follow this impulse I’m feeling or think about it some more. -- Mothering. Do any of us get it right? -- My birthday (I was induced so is it really my birthday?) is on the cusp of Leo and Virgo, am I this or that, or neither?
I’m holding my breath writing this trying not to feel, not to feel so lousy that she is going out this way, that there will never be any resolve between her and I, any more conversation, any more understanding. My fear is she knew me and she really didn’t like me, so there was no place for us to go anyway, no more understanding to be had, even if we had all the time in the world. She laughed hard at my jokes. I was good at making her laugh with my point of view on things, a little audacious for her taste, but funny.
I was standing in a parking lot years ago, flirting with a man I had a crush on, and out of nowhere he asks me, “Are you an orphan?” I just stood there, silent. “You sure act like one.” Huh. No one had ever said that to me before but he was seeing pretty far in for someone who barely knew me. I’ve got a mom. She’s 85 today, that is a life, a big one. When I was younger I thought a big life meant big things attained, big things that could be seen and checked off a list. Now that I am well into middle age I know better. Everybody’s life is big.