Day’s flutter pass like wind blown pages of a book, occasionally landing on a chapter of happiness or sorrow.
Mom’s children leave. Each daughter marries. The hours spent on them are now hours gained to contemplate middle age, not that anyone would guess she was in her mid-life, nor would she correct them.
Grandchildren come into the world as her oldest siblings depart. Men of integrity, courage, and tradition. Orphan men who provided for siblings survived the Great Depression, and wars. Men who married young sweethearts, raised families, and weathered changing times.
The winds of life blow with the ferocity only death can bring. Mom’s brothers died soon after retirement, ravaged by cancer, the affliction of her parents. Their departure like uprooted trees in the landscape of her life.
Her career becomes her greatest pleasure, counseling the unemployed, connecting people with goals, encouraging youth, instilling hope. Evenings filled with meetings, groups of various acronyms, with one purpose: equality. Now there is a community pool, educational centers, and non-profit organizations serving people.
The pages keep turning. There is no slowdown in mid-life. Mom worked until 67, left after a mass shooting at her state office left co-workers dead, injured. Left her with post-traumatic syndrome. She thought about going back to college, for her Master’s degree, but serves on the Grand Jury instead.
Wanderlust struck. So much life, so much to live for. Egypt, Jordan, places we can no longer visit, were first on the agenda. Spain, Portugal, Canada, France, England, Mexico, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, and half of the United States. Places visited in books of her youth or on TV.
She rescues working daughters, son, and walks grandkids to school, makes them snacks, watches them grow. Her home is open to her children when troubles strike. None of us ever go it alone.
Mom’s life temporarily shuts down when her youngest sister died, the one she protected, the one who helped her through every pothole in the journey. Cancer. Again. A light went out, brightness dimmed. The absence of phone calls, trips to casinos, shopping, laughing with her sister leave Mom depressed for two years.
Her eyesight dims like her joy. A prognosis of legal blindness curtails her driving, her independence and link to distant friends and extended family. Worse, it’s difficult to read.
Now family reunions take place in her dreams, between recurring nightmares. Pain fades, aches remain, good times are remembered, wistful visits to previous chapters of life.
The first great-grandchild is born, many grand nieces/nephews, celebrations of sacraments, birthdays, milestones. Tortillas, turkey, tamales, everything celebrated with food and family, traditions kept alive.
This quote aptly describes my mother. Now in her mid-eighties, my mom’s hurricane force has reduced to a small tornado, which is pretty impressive given that she is legally blind and uses a cane to help her walk longer distances.
The white blond streaks in her shoulder length hair, her youthful face, and laughter often have people guessing her age as 10-15 years younger. She doesn’t correct their error.
I’ve been gone for only a week and I’m missing her very much. This has me thinking about our conversations-a lot.
Mom divulges bits of her life at the most unexpected times, little puzzle pieces that drop onto the floor of our conversations while we’re cleaning a pantry or picking roses from her 45 bushes.
I’ve gathered up the first 25 years of her life and placed them in this verse:
The house on Newman St. was the center of mom’s universe, with
parents who demonstrated love, hard work, importance of family.
They made a circuit, planting, harvesting crops, from Pomona to Fresno, CA.
Labor camps of noisy dogs, clattering pans, drifting music and stories.
Happy amongst the aromas of hot tortillas, strong coffee, tired people.
Orphan, alone in a tree, peeking through branches at the house below,
hiding in books, neighbor’s houses, hopping trains into downtown.
An alcoholic uncle left to care for her and four siblings, in her parents home,
now a place filled with drunken men, screeches of profanity, groping hands.
Sisters and brothers bury their grief, help each other through the rocky terrain of life.
School is a refuge. A smart girl promoted two grades but drops out in 10th.
Her brothers grew up fast, strong, courageous enough to chase their drunken uncle away reclaim their home.
WWII emptied out the neighborhood of childhood friends and brother.
Young sisters go it alone with a fifteen-year-old brother/father, who works three jobs.
She will never forget.
At thirteen, she earns her own money from working in the packing houses,
one step up, now able to breath-just a bit-from stifling poverty.
She moves to another city, to find work, meets her first love, plans for marriage,
but is left with a child. A disgrace in those days, shame that sent her to L.A,
to one of those homes, lonely, dreary. Worse than the ones in the B movies on Turner Classic movies.
She cried for days, packed her suitcase and left, took the ridicule, pointing fingers, gossip.
Lived in a tiny trailer with her sister, in someone’s backyard. Had a baby girl. Found happy.
There is crying from sadness, grief, anger, frustration,
and sometimes there is crying for happy.
I imagine different rooms in a house, with appropriate decor (gray’s, brown’s, red’s), with soft blankets and big cushy pillows
where we can go to cry our eyes out.
But I’d gather most of us spend time stifling the times in which we want to cry.
I do that myself sometimes and end up feeling miserable, guilty, and congested.
Sometimes I feel dumb for even wanting to cry.
That is until I came across this blog post from Annie Lalla, which gave me much relief and a new philosophy.
Here are some excerpts (emphasis mine). I encourage you to read the full post on her website-she’s awesome.
“Crying is a secret sacred place, a place of solitude.
It’s not a space we navigate with much finesse; there are few maps on how to cry.
Many conflicting feelings arise around tears -fear of looking weak, of being too emotional, guilt for making others feel bad, relief at sharing pent-up thoughts, joy at being seen in our truth.
To cry is to render your heart naked, undefended & utterly exposed to the world. No wonder it is shrouded in so much terror, secrecy and shame.
Tears…your tears, are the way your body shows you what’s important to you. Holding them back is a form of self-deception and a withhold of your deepest truth. When I feel that familiar proto-tear sensation rising up in my throat, I know I always have a choice in that moment:
to cry or…to lie.
Every uncried tear is a lost epiphany, a missed lesson, a moment that failed at aliveness.
Each time you cry you release ancient tears from all the moments you didn’t let yourself cry in the past.
No tear is ever wasted, each one holds in it’s liquid infinity, 1o years worth of therapeutic salve.
Knowing this, I now look forward to opportunities to cry…once the portal is open, I let as many drops out as I can. The more I cry, the more alive I feel.
Tears teach us what we actually care about, they point at what matters the most, they take us back to a place of innocence & transparency.
Tears lead us home.
From a place of frustration, anger, or grief, we can release the tears inside, feel the pain, examine it, and do some self talk, without any guilt or shame.
Think of crying as part of self-care and good mental health.
This attitude sure beats stifling our feelings and tears and becoming congested, or overeating, over drinking, or being in denial.
Have a great weekend and I hope you remember that it’s healthy to release yourself with a good cry.