Thursday, May 01, 2014


Goodnight my angel
Time to close your eyes.

I was barely 22 when my father died.  Not terribly young, but more than half my life has now passed without a father.  Its been tough and some times I still dream of his gentle strength and wisdom and then wake realizing he's not really here.
My mother has been around all those years, and we have always been close.  She's always been a comfort and a moral guide, the kind of woman who is not afraid to tell me when I'm doing wrong and gently help me do right.  She's always been the one who gives me books she thinks I need to learn from or would enjoy, little notes, bookmarks, and such that she thought I would like.
That's the kind of woman my mom is; she does that for everyone.  She gets a great deal of enjoyment out of making things and doing things for other people.  She understands me and who I am and what I am better than anyone else on earth.  My brother Joel and I are very close as well, and he gets me in a way mom cannot, but its a different thing with your mom.
She's intelligent, creative, and a good woman who has her flaws and sometimes can be a source of frustration and annoyance at times, like I suppose we all are.
I'm a bit biased, I suppose.  She's my mother, and I'm her son.  She's the best mother that has ever lived from where I sit.  I apologize to other mothers, I'm sure you are all quite fine, but you're not mine.
I listen to a lot of soft celtic and bluegrass type music when I'm working on my non fiction books.  I'm working hard on the new edition of The Fantasy Codex I've had out since 2004, and its been quite an undertaking.  I liked the old version, but the new is going to be even better.  But a song plays every so often on the mix I built on Jango called "Goodnight My Angel" by Celtic Woman.
I tried not to like Celtic Woman because its so obviously a corporate construct, a group of women collected by the Lord of the Dance dude to sing and play celtic music and make money off them.  They play and put on shows in deliberately manipulative manner and imagery to get the maximum response from the audience and cash from their wallets.
But... they're good.  They are really, really good.  Some astoundingly talented women are and have been in that group and I am always amazed as they dance and sing down stairs as they play a violin with great skill, in high heels and a long dress, no less.
And that one song, "Goodnight" hits me like a shovel in the chest.  Its a lullaby, a song by a mother for her child.  It goes like this:

Now, that's awful pretty and I could see it putting a baby to sleep no problem.  But there are some lines in it that are hard to take for a variety of reasons.  For example this one:
Some day a child may cry and if you sing this lullaby.
Then in your heart there will always be a part of me.  
Yeah, not so much.  I have no children, I never will.  I won't ever have the family I would love to have, and that hurts every time.  Its just one of those things I never get past, no matter how much I struggle to be tough and ignore it or be content with.  The world feels unjust sometimes.
But more to the point are lines like these:
I promise I would never leave you.
And you should always know, I never will be far away.
That's the kind of thing you say to those you love.  I'll always love you.  I'll never leave you.  You can trust me, you can rely on me.  I'll always be there for you, because I love you.  And you say it honestly, you really mean it, every time.
And its never true.  I don't mean people lie, I mean people are human.  We do leave, we do stop loving, we do fail.  We don't always keep our promises no matter how hard we try.  And usually the reasons are completely out of our control.  We get in a traffic jam, we get lost, we get hurt, we can't afford it.  We die.
My mother will be 80 years old this year.  I don't mind so much me getting older, but I do mind her.  She used to have beautiful, precise handwriting, and now its all wiggly and hard to read.  She used to keep an astoundingly beautiful garden and yard, but she can barely keep up a few flower baskets now.  She used to cook extra cookies and meals for people and she can cook less and less.  She used to write novels, now she can barely keep up with her letters.
She's not always going to be there.  She will leave me.  She will be as far away as can possibly be in this life.
Every year, every month it seems like, I can see her able to do less and less.  She was so strong and capable, so clear and able for so long, and now she's fading away and I can't do a damned thing about it.  I was raised, and I firmly believe this is totally right, that the children reach a point they care for the parents.  They care for you until you can be on your own, then eventually you care for them.  That is how it is supposed to be.
And I do everything I can for my mother, she's all alone in her little duplex home, and I spend every Sunday afternoon with her, I talk with her on the phone once or twice a day.  I do what I can, which sadly isn't much because I'm not in great shape and I have almost no money.  Each month when she does her big grocery run, she rides in one of those electric carts and I push the basket around and grab the items, do the heavy lifting, pack it up and unpack it at home.
That's how we are meant to be.  When we reach a certain age we care for the elderly in our family.  I help her understand new stuff that comes out, and she helps me understand the old.  She shares her wisdom and understanding, and the man that I am, what little wisdom and understanding I have of the world, is largely due to her and my father's brilliance and discernment.
They say the hardest thing to take, the worst grief in the world is losing a child.  I believe it, because of the monstrous injustice of someone younger than you dying.  I believe it because you are supposed to protect and keep your children, to make them safe.  And when they die, it has to feel like you've not just lost someone you love and all their promise, seen the awful unfairness of them cut off too young, but the feeling of failure; of letting them down.
And honestly that's how I feel about my mother.  I'm letting her down.  I can't protect her from death. There's a myth in Greek stories of Herakles when his friend is very sick.  Herakles sits outside his door, helpless.  He's no physician, he can't heal his friend.  But he can guard him.  And when death comes for the friend of Herakles, the mighty warrior beats the crap out of death and forces him to leave. 
I love that story so much on so many levels.  One day I hope to write a story that good.  But I'm not Herakles and I can't kick death's ass.  Death wins, almost every single time.  I can feel my mother slipping out of my grasp like she's danging off a cliff and my hands are sweaty.  I can't save her.  I am going to lose her one day, and that awful day gets closer every time I wake up in the morning.
I lost my father when I was very young, and that hurt so bad I still feel the pain.  To be without my mother is a pain I don't know if I can even bear.
People say death is natural, that it is a part of the cycle of life.  That's bullshit.  Death is a horrific evil, a blasphemy so profound it destroys people all around it.  Death is absolutely wrong and abhorrent.  We are not meant to die.  I know, intellectually and spiritually that we will meet again.  I know that for her it is rest, and glorious hope.
But for those left behind, it is awful pain that is almost indescribably traumatic.  The closer the connection we have with someone, the more unbelievably painful it is when we lose them.  Raymond Chandler called it "the long goodbye" and saying goodbye is hard.  The longer its going to be before you see them again, the worse it is.
Its one of those things that remind us all how limited we are.  I'm helpless here, all I can do is love her and try to treat her right, to be respectful and honorable, and true to her, so that she understands how I feel and what she means to me as my parent and friend.
But it sucks.  And all I can do in the end is write about it and pray for God's love and grace to face it.
Goodnight my angel.
Time to close your eyes.
And save these questions for another day.
I think I know what you've been asking me.
I think you know what I've been trying to say.
I promise I would never leave you.
And you should always know, I never will be far away.
Goodnight my angel, now it's time to sleep.
And still so many things I want to say.
Remember all the songs you sang for me.
When we went sailing on a emerald bay.
And like a boat out on the ocean.
I'm rocking you to sleep.
The water is dark and deep inside this mother's heart.
You'll always be a part of me.
Goodnight my angel, now it's time to dream.
And dream how wonderfull your life will be.
Some day a child may cry and if you sing this lullaby.
Then in your heart there will always be a part of me. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very well done. My grandmother once said you never get used to being an orphan. I've been one for 6 and 1/2 years. Her words are ringing true.

When it happens, it is time for us to step up and take the lead as there is no one in front but us.

The responsibility is thrust upon us, just, fair, or not, and we may as well do our best until the inevitable reunification comes.