Looking through these papers is like experiencing deyavu "all over again" as someone wise (I've narrowed it down to William James, Mark Twain and Yogi Berra) once said.
Marion Cleo Jones Bradley was my mother. God bless her for that. She grew up during the depression and had a hard life. She somehow, climbing out of poverty and ignorance, became a teacher and taught 1st or 2nd grade for years, decades.
I found this poem about her. It seems a bit harsh, but I wrote it over seven years ago and who knows (certainly not me!) what I was thinking when I wrote it. But it was like meeting an old friend in Grand Central Station to find it. And I share it with you.
As the Africans say, 'this is my story, receive it with a blessing and send the blessing back to me...."
Well, every day is 'mother's day',
if we are to acknowledge the broad, inclusive
knowledge of our best friend, Dr. Freud.
Who among us can disentangle from the clever, ubiquitous web
of deceit, devotion and dread she wove around us?
"Step on a crack and break your mother's back."
She didn't make that up,
but she would have, given the choice.
Control, control and more control:
that is the currency of Mother Love.
However, this is about my mother
(write your own poem about yours!)
My mother made a mistake in timing.
She died the week of my 25th birthday.
Elsie, her younger sister, my aunt,
put her hand on my shoulder as I sat
by my mother's death bed, feeding her vanilla ice cream
from a little paper cup with a weird wooden spoon
as if it were exactly what she would want
as she lay dying--which is True as True can be.
"Happy birthday, Jimmy", my aunt Elsie said,
(though she may have said "Jimmie"--the spelling
of my nickname was almost Shakespeareanly varied)--
"did anyone else remember?" she continued,
into more ice cream I was feeding to an almost dead woman.
No one else had--not even my father,
not even me--I'd forgotten my own birthday,
twenty and five: a Big One.
He, at least, could be forgiven.
His wife, after all, was dying.
But why did I forget such an auspicious date?
Because 'mommy' was more important?
Of course she was--she'd made it so
through innocence and guile
and the web she'd woven around me
in all the years before.
She never hit me--not once--I swear it is true;
except with guilt and 'responsibility' and the sticky
lace of Mother Love.
I've lived a life-time since she finally died,
sated on ice cream from my hand.
I only remember her face from photographs
and remember her voice not at all.
She was a good mother--believe you me.
She did all she knew to do and more besides.
And she loved me. She did--she did.
And would love me more if she knew
the man I am today.
Yet, over three decades later, I remember this:
my father and I standing on the loading dock
of Bluefield's hospital, watching the dawn.
Nurses were unhooking all the lines that had held my mom
to this life. I expected some tender moment,
sleep deprived as we both were.
What I got was this: my father looked down at my shoes
and handed me thirty dollars--a twenty and two fives.
"Buy some new shoes for her funeral," he said.
And I said, holding the bills in my hand,
"this isn't enough...."
Although, in those days, it really was.
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