Sunday, January 06, 2008

Residual Anger

Confession time: I am a hot-tempered woman. When I get angry (which is a lot) I get very quiet and icy and that's usually the hint for trespassers to back off before I explode. There have been times in my life where I allowed that anger to overtake my good sense; more times, in fact, than I care to think about. Each of those explosions caused dire consequences, some of which I've had to deal with for fifteen or twenty years.

For example, when my mother passed away I hadn't spoken to her in over five years. This wasn't a one-sided situation, oh no. She didn't talk to me either. It all stemmed from a single incident.

I was catering a large event--about five hundred people for a crawfish boil in Tennessee. After the gorgefest was easing into the 'straggler' time, I sat down to play a game of euchre with some friends and drink a beer or two. In the middle of the game, my mother and brother showed up out of the blue. She started screaming at me in a mixture of English and French which was my mother at her worst. As I stared at her in complete silence, I stewed over my two options: I could stand up and knock her on her ass, or I could just walk away. I chose the latter. Deliberately, I stood up, turned my back on her, and walked out of the pavilion to a mosquito-infested pool. While I cried like a baby, my brother tried to start a fight with my friends. Bad decision: they were all in the military. By the time I got back, my mother and brother were gone and I had made the decision that in order to keep my sanity, I needed to amputate that portion of my life. The anger, the hatred, the sorely troubled love, the desire to please--all of those emotions were jettisoned from my personal baggage so that I could go on living.

And, so I did. I moved back up to Ohio and away from my mother's reach. The next thing I heard about her, she was dead. My anger had prevented me from being there in time to say,"I'm sorry." or "I love you." Any chance of reconcilation was buried, eternally, six feet from my grasp.

This is not a pleasant place to live. Although I've spent much of the last few years trying to tie up all those loose emotional ends, it will still never justify my mother breathing her last without me there at her side. Some of you remember when she died from our association on another website. What none of you know is that every day, at some point, something reminds me of her. In that moment, I'm right back in that self-accustory state.

Today is one of those days for me. I spent much of the afternoon on the cardiac ward with my father-in-law. As my husband and I struggled to find a way to entertain a man who is absolutely miserable and in pain, I wondered what could have changed in my life if I had tried to reconcile with my mother before she died. I realized something very important: it wouldn't really have made a difference. I would have tried to forgive her, but she never would have forgiven me. The last look I gave her was one of disgust, the last thing she saw of me was my back as I walked away from her for the final time. Even then, in the back of my mind, I knew it was the final time anyway. Even if I had been there, I couldn't have found the closure that so viciously eludes me now.

And then, another picture enters my mind: my mom, driving me to competitions, chaperoning our History Day group to the national convention and the look on her face when I won the research paper award, the way she so casually brought up my successes to farmers at the store. I realize how proud she would be of me now that I'm published, and I'd like to think that if she were still alive, she would know that a lot of what I have accomplished is due to her unerring belief in my ability to succeed.

Just that quickly: mother became Mom. For some reason, that one little linguistic change put a whole lot of things about this residual anger squarely into place. So tonight, as I type this long, boring story out into my blog, I no longer think about the mother who humiliated me in public, but about the Mom who drove me all over the countryside in an effort to help me succeed at what I wanted to do most.

So. Asphodel isn't dedicated to anyone. Reckoning will be dedicated to my Latin teachers Grady and Kaye Warren and my English teacher/mentor the late Kitty Savage. I'll tell you more about them tomorrow. Temptation will be dedicated to my husband, of course.

But Apostolate? That dedication will go to my mom. Finally, I think I have found the peace I've craved for nearly a decade.