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This Mother of Mine…

OK… so a year ago, I was in no physical or mental shape to tell a soul about my mother.  I wrote a fairly inane poem, but it was heartfelt.  But now it’s one year later…

My mother was a master of the English language.  I mean a true master.  Words, All words were her obsession.  She had to know every single word ever used and it’s full usage history.  She couldn’t get through four hours without effusing on a word.  She studied literature at Oxford and soaked up everything.  She would regularly sit in her arm chair blustering up giggles of glee while reading.  When asked, it would always be about the use of a great word.  She eventually became a professional scrabble player … she already had memorized the dictionary.  She found true joy in the variations of sentence structure.  To call her a veracious reader would be an understatement.  She always read three to five books a week as long as I’ve known her, and she read every word.  She used to read Archy and Mehitabel to me as a child and we would discuss meaning and cadence.  She never treated me with simple placations.  We were always equals.  She knew Immediately that I was unable to deal with the English language and gave me whole worlds of stories through her translation.  I read Kafka, Asimov and Agatha Christie in Elementary School because she wanted to share and discuss.  She simply couldn’t wait for us to grow up.

My mother had an insanely high IQ and in my family that actually means insane. LOL.  Trust me.  Long line of them.  All stunningly creative or grand masters.  She spent much of her adult life doing mensa logic puzzles.  Every nook and cranny of her car was stuffed with them.  She would whip them out at traffic lights and start calculating.  Her mind would never rest unless she was playing the piano.  And then, she would just listen to her touch.

I bet you could count the days on two hands that she did not play her piano in the past 40 years.  She had a stunningly warm Beckstein with legs that bolstered all the beauty that resonated above.  I remember loving those three piano legs the way a man would eye a womans.  They were sculpturally perfect.  She would sit at the piano for hours and hours and hours.  In between she would play records most of the day.  She took us to see every great pianist that ever came through town.  Then she would round us up and take us back stage to meet each one.  Never mind she had no business back there!  I met Horowitz and Bernstein and Lilly Krauss and Muray… I met them all and they all would love her sense of wonderment and complete lack of boundaries.  She had magic in her eyes.  She treated everyone as though she’d known them for years.  I’ll never forget feeling each ones handshake and the touch that was magic.  Sense of touch permeates me.  She spent years discussing sound with me.  We would feel the sound, chew it,  breath it and it was from her But I feel touch when I hear sound and I think she did as well. I learned the beauty of a soft landing with ones stroke.  A single note, depressed, floating within the air would hover between us and we would watch it fall away.  That was the joy of playing an instrument… finding it’s range of resonance and eeking out it’s sound potential.  I have an ear for sound because of her.  She wanted to make sure we would get every last drop of joy from the smallest things.  She took me to every major art exhibit.  She even took us all up to New York when I was twelve or so just so I could see the famous all Picasso exhibit.  My sisters weren’t all that interested but she knew it would change my life and it did.  She said I was most like her.  That used to scare me. LOL

My mother was troubled and her mind was as fragmented as mine.  She had great pain, addiction, and loss.  She never recovered.  She just expanded her world of sound and word.  She became askew and yet still cunningly brilliant.  She was both sad scornful and yet had the biggest heart.  When she wasn’t just whiling away the hours in solitude with her music, the sky would open up and she would fly higher and with more gusto than the world knew what to do with.  The sky was the limit.  She gave that to me.  She used to say we were one of kind and that is true.  I didn’t see it until later in life but one day I had that gestalt of, !@#$%!  I am my mother.  The apple doesn’t in fact fall very far.  But unlike her I’ve kept my sanity intact.  I learned that no matter what happens in life you can never, ever give up.  I learned from seeing her languish in her solitary world of distractions that I cannot follow there.  I must create, I must.

We had a rough go of it though out my teens.   I had more self determination and obstinance than her and once she realized I was entirely beyond her control she gave up.  She kicked me out at 13.  LOL.  And away I went.  We barely spoke for years and then I gave up my sordid ways and headed full steam into academia and we found one another again.  We shared in all those things we love.  I drove most people insane with my made up words  that pepper my thoughts and inability to spell. She found them charming and thought they’d make for a very funny book.  She loved my art and in the end she loved me more than herself.  No one ever saw that coming.  She opened up to me the past decade as herself; not as a mother or even a friend. She found what ever she said I would understand… we were one of a kind.  I did.  We shared the same range of depth, sorrow, loss and big hearted dreams.

Until she died I spent my life trying not to end up like her… in a crazy world removed from reality.  I became an over achiever and planned and followed through and created great things.  I was never able to get her to understand that deciding not to do something was still a choice.  She grew an aversion to decision making, and just wanted to play her piano. I became a master of decision for fear I’d end up her shoes.  I was the go to girl for anything.  How high should I jump and would you like a pirouette with that?  Life was a symphony to be scored and brought to fruition.

Now she’s gone.  The end was brutal and quick.  It ravaged us both to the bone.  But now, I no longer have to run away from her.  I am free.  I realize I’ll never turn into her… I simply don’t have it in me to ever give up.  She gave me the one gift she couldn’t give herself: the ability to delve deep with a souls blood letting and then pull yourself out and carry on because there is a time and place for everything.  My art will carry it all in the next year. That said, I finally stopped running and my world has come to a crawl of silence this past 15 months.  I live in that place she would love.  That limbo of sorts.  Instead of burying myself in philosophy bulletins, blue prints, plans and websites like I was, I’m now on Facebook… farming.  (I’m shaking my head).  I’m unrecognizable.  But, I am absorbing the past, the present and getting ready to depress my keys in a slow, diffused lovely sound that will hoover between me and the Universe and then I will slamingly strike through it and mark myself yet again on this world.  The beauty of toggling between the beautiful and the punctuated scream is where I wish to live.  I have been running around being everything to everyone and now I realize I am an artist who happens to wear some other hats.  My mother gave me everything that is my soul.  My father gave me the chance to survive and make something of myself.  And now I’m older, wiser and doing what I should have done long ago.

So, there you have a tiny insight into my crazy but colorful upbringing.  Last year I was home from my hospital stay and unable to even lift myself up on my own.  I was barely functioning so, please excuse the poem.  It’s not my best but it was very heartfelt and all I could muster at the time. But even after all this time… it still says it all.

This was my post last year:

My mother passed away early this morning.  It was sudden and unexpected and yet we had a few days notice.  My mother is out of state on the other side of the country.  I had major surgery on Monday and called her on Wednesday from my hospital bed to hers.  I am so glad I made that phone call and the many others before.  I had numerous opportunities to say everything I wanted her to know and I know she heard me.  Her service is this Monday but I won’t be able to attend as I still have weeks of recovery before I can get around let alone travel.  It never once crossed my mind that I would ever miss my own Mother’s funeral.  But here we are. I wanted to say something personally to her on that day, so I wrote her the following poem this morning.  It seemed appropriate to share it today as well, since this is the day I wished that I also could have been there.

Flowers for my Mother © Britt Conley

This Mother of Mine

Words tap danced upon her brain like candies of possibility.
She mastered the English language while examining it’s long history.
She was different, she was mine
Her world was full of playwrights and poets, music and thyme…
poached egg breakfasts and the cross word lines,
Logic puzzles sharpened her mind.
Practicing over the keys of past masters helped her pass the time.
She lived for English mysteries, Isaac Asimov and Bradbury,
She was different, this Mother of  mine.
We didn’t always see eye to eye.
We did however, exchange many heart felt moments within our time.
I have to say, retrospect is a bitter sweet find.
I would have changed quite a bit and I would have tried…
I know she loved me and I know she was mine…
Mine in my heart and always for time.
She knew all these things even when we fought.
Long ago we sorted it all out.
We were very close, especially the last few years.
We laughed a lot and exchanged many tears.
I can’t be there today so I give her this rhyme.
She knew she was loved and she knew it was time.
All my love forever and always Mom, you will always be in my heart and my mind.

Britt –

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