Friday, February 22, 2008
January BJP - dedicated to my mother
January is the month my mother was born, the page for this month is about her and some of my memories relating to her.
She was a physically beautiful woman. Standing 6 feet tall with naturally curly auburn hair and green eyes. She was also one of the most intelligent people I have ever known. She was 22 when she married my dad who was 20 years her senior, and while he was quite a bit older - no one would have known that by looking at them. I believe they genuinely loved each other, it appeared that way from my perspective anyway.
My mother battled mental illness for as far back as I can remember, having her first 'nervous breakdown' when she was 29 - I was 7. My mom was gone for 2 weeks for that particular episode and at my age, it seemed like an eternity.
It would not be her first 'breakdown' or suicide attempt, there would be several more over the years. She was diagnosed with just about every mental illness you can think of, by as many different doctors. I can only imagine what might have gone through her mind during the dark times. It hurts now to even ponder the possibilities. My dad (and my grandmother) was always there to take care of her and us kids, I realized later in life how hard this must have been for them. Going through it - I never would have known, it was 'normal' for us. Most families in our neighborhood went through trials and tribulations as families. Ours didn't seem any harder or easier than the others.
In my late teens my father had a massive stroke from which he never recovered and eventually passed away about 2 years later. During that time my mother's lucid moments were, sadly, few and far between, there were several suicide attempts and increasingly odd behavior.
She was lost without my dad, he was her rock - her safe place to fall. With that gone, I think life was scary for her. About 6 months after my dad passed away and a few days after she had been released from a mental hospital, my mother shot herself - no 'attempt', this time - she was serious. I imagine she had lost all hope at that point.
Some of my best memories are of her singing and playing the piano. My mom did not read music, but played the piano beautifully (and perfectly) by ear. She also had a wonderful sense of humor when she was lucid (which really was the vast majority of the time).
I jotted down wishes as I beaded this piece...
I wish I (and the doctors) knew more about mental illness back when you were so sick.
I wish I was more compassionate when you were afraid of the dark.
I wish everyone could feel your hopelessness and fear for one minute - may be then, there would be a stronger sense of urgency for answers and options for the mentally ill.
I wish I could go back in time and hug you and tell you that it's okay and I'm okay.
I wish I could give you one day to spend with your grand kids and great grand kids.
I wish I could hear you play the piano and sing one more time.
January 20, 1938 - April 22, 1982
Leaves of Grass
This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body - Walt Whitman