Things I Did Not Know Where Missing
Dr. Kathleen Hudson
I hear the word MISSING and I think of my mother, Annabel Lee.
I have been missing her since May 2015.
Missing our daily talks, her questions and her support.
I did not know I would miss her so.
I thought I was ready for her to leave the world at 91,
Leave her suffering.
My mother, the poem, was a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
As I miss her I also find her….in me. First, I let the silver white undercoat
Of my hair take over. No more red. I found my Annabel hair, and I like it!
I have also found a way to experience her through the gifts she left behind.
She gave me her wedding ring from the 1944 ceremony with her childhood sweetheart, David Pillow.
I have their sweet photo in my living room, reminding me of the possibility of a deep love.
She gave me a long string of pearls, saying, “David bought these for me, but I wanted a short strand.
These look more like you. More dramatic.”
I embrace my dramatic self.
I wear the pearls remembering the stories I heard from her the last year of her life.
The year dad was gone from his place beside her I moved into the bed and watched black and white movies with her. All the while hearing her stories of me, of her life, of her parents, the loss of her brother when she was 5 and he was 7, the way she felt about me, her first child, her first of 5.
“You taught us so much,” she said. “Your crib was in our bedroom, and we would awaken to see you peeking over the rails.” She reminded me that I learned to talk before I learned to walk.
“Who do you love?” she would ask. “Kaki Pillow,” I would answer with my name.
“What’s your name?” she would ask. “I love you,” I would answer. A family story.
Yes, I find her and find myself in these stories I remember, wearing the long pearls, the Chico blouses she insisted I take before she died, the jewelry she asked me to pick, the love she kept sharing with her 3 angel caretakers, the way she loved, “bloom where you are planted,” she said.
And always Corinthians 13:12
“Now we see through a glass darkly, but then shall we see face to face.”
I have found that painful as the memories are they are also a source of great comfort and joy, yes even joy. They bring light to me even as they cover me with a blanket of grey.
I have found a compassion for many forms of loss, things I did not understand before.
I have found myself in this careful re-membering of my mother.
She had left us alone, my younger sisters and me. She was out with someone new. I was given instructions, should he call, not to tell one man about the other. I didn’t. He didn’t call. The town we lived in was small, but it wasn’t difficult to find someone if one was so inclined. There were only two places to go for a night out. She wouldn’t have been caught dead in one and for good reason, so I couldn’t understand how she thought she’d go undiscovered. With the faintest reasoning, it would be easy to find her and he did. The events following her return home that night are incised as if by a blade into my memory.
She was drunk and wild, her eyes’ black with anger as if the spirit of it had taken her over. I had never seen her like this before, intent on breaking everything she touched, even me, especially me. “You’re lying!” she screamed as she ripped the telephone from the kitchen wall separating her Revlon red nails from their fingers. I didn’t know it at that moment, but this was a prelude to more pointed violence to follow. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the blood falling to the floor in large drops as the ink does from broken fountain pens. Repeatedly, she questioned me, screamed at me, the acceptable answer already in her mind. I told her again and again through hot tears that I didn’t tell him. The tearful truth would not satisfy her and continued denying of the lie she insisted was reason seemed only to stoke the spirit triggering the escalation of her temper from fury to rabid rage. She spat these venomous words at me. “You’ll never amount to anything; you're your father’s child. You’ll grow up to be a whore!” These sent me in flight to my room and resound in my ears still.
My father had left only a few months before after an affair she denies to this day, thirty-six years later. Though the affair might suggest her unhappiness or boredom in the marriage, Dad’s constant presence with her until then was akin to Mary Mapes Dodge’s little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. With him, the deep water in her remained still, only the occasional storm passed over. Now, the dam had broken and all about her at rest in the depths gushed forth, a deluge of the before unseen. Another person, someone I didn’t know, replaced her.
Her consequent behavior was foreign to me. Almost overnight it seemed that how she was perceived by everyone in the outside world became of paramount importance to her, more specifically, men. She changed the color of her hair and wore her makeup a darker. Her clothes went from those typical of a stay at home mom to those that garnered the stares of a targeted audience. She was admittedly quite beautiful and understood instinctively the advantage of it. Her gait changed, and she employed a vocabulary greater than her limited years of education would have provided. Though usually quite sickly and tired she suddenly had great energy and enthusiasm but none of it for us.
In our world, the inside, things were different too. Her drinking and verbal assaults against us and our absent father worsened as the months passed as did her tales of the tragedies that had befallen her in her life before us. The pleasure she seemed to get watching her violent episodes frighten us increased. It took many years living in this nightmarish hell and five stepfathers for me to recognize this pattern of behavior in her. And, to realize that she was in a word, unwell.
Student - Staff
More frightened than I ever remembered being before, I pushed the chair up under the doorknob and contemplated escape through the window. Too terrified to run or leave the chair in place, I moved it somehow knowing that her inability to enter at will would make things worse though just then, I couldn’t imagine how. It’s funny to me now that I couldn’t imagine it being worse. I was lying curled on my bed when she came in, the sound of her screaming never having stopped in the house. Since, though seldom, I have tried to recall all she said to me as I was lying there but I can’t. I don’t remember where my sisters were though I imagine they were hiding. I don’t remember the time of year or what I was wearing. I don’t even remember her face at that moment. My body was shaking violently with fear as one would when near a freezing death. Still, all I can hear her say is, “I’ll give you something to shake about!” She left the room to return minutes later with the weapon she had chosen. She came toward me with abandon like a stranger with no feeling for me and as if from an immeasurable height the brown bolt of lightning struck first across my shoulders then repeatedly and never in the same place.
I was thirteen. Whatever happened following that, I can’t truly say. I have no memory of it, save the colors of blue, red and purple that crossed me like ribbons. Perhaps the gaps are due to time passed or that only the nastiest of it sticks with me. What I can say is that worse, the description of conditions only moments before I couldn’t fathom, then became normal eventually giving way to constancy and then expectancy. Cruelty is a shape-shifter as time would prove out but it was this night that began a journey that continues, a painfully long, slow walk through life with an emotionally volatile, mentally tangled mother.
Dr. Kathleen Hudson
Pain and loss have stories
Then I found you.
My teapot is empty
The road is lonely
I stare at the horizon to connect with myself
But you’ve never understood my mind, my body
So get comfortable with that fact
I don’t know how far away you are
Does going in circles everyday get boring
You get the life you want and the sun is lost in quiet
My family, thank you now, it has been so long
I like listening to music and dreams are a trance
Let’s talk to the fire and turn wild
Absolute unparallel greatness is nearby
Like dragons, like oceans, like fire
And sugar is what I am, and I say thank you
For staying with me all those lonely nights
I ran a race called country and a cold fire burned me
I miss laughing with you everyday
I love that about you
And now, for some conversation with myself
I want to be one of those people like Patti Smith
I will always be me
And I make everything awkward, but I am the one, the rain
The girl you once loved.
And night is my favorite part of day
The smell of the full moon on my bed where the moon has been sweating
So now I will focus on the big things
Never be afraid
Let us all go forth and dream.