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The day she died.


I am in a writing frame of mind tonight. I got an essay idea I am not quite ready to chase down. It'll get called something like: I've always fallen for women I cannot have. The notion of which makes me smile, knowing where it will go. Knowing, also, my sweet feminist critics will slam me against the wall for it. But it needs more time to gestate. Or maybe I am just luxuriating in the possibilities before execution time. So, for tonight, here is a field note I am ready for.

I moved back home to Florida 18 months before the day she died, a day in late August. I moved back home because she was dying. I needed to be near. But not too near. She lived in Daytona Beach. The town of my childhood. A town I had left, ran from at age 16. When I moved back, age 33, the closest town I could bring myself to live in was St. Augustine, some 40 miles up the coast. That was near enough to her, to my home town, to the house in which I grew up and where she would die, and to my childhood, I reasoned. Near enough and far enough away to allow a little breathing space.

That was a hell of a cusp of time, that 18 month strand. Seems like I was in perpetual motion. Maybe I was running in place. If I wasn't surf fishing, something I could do for 14 hours at a stretch, I was lifting weights. Or I was writing from midnight until dawn. Some of my best stories were written then. Or I was waiting on tables in a restaurant that allowed for an indecently good earning. Or I was trying to stay one step ahead of my second wife, last woman I ever loved unconditionally, whose punches and knifings were on the tempo increase. Or I was trying my damndest, and with ultimate success, to keep another step ahead of the several women who, for unexplainable reasons, deemed me desirable. Including my bosses wife and his daughter. 18 months. In a drug smuggling town. I wasn't in to cocaine yet. But I would be later. After she died. After my wife got the hint and finally left, which came first. After time started slowing down a little.

Funny to think back on it all. I only went home because my mother was dying and I needed to be near the scene of her demise, what she considered a disaster. Not a large ambition or design.

One late Saturday night in spring I came home from work. Car was gone, every light in the house was on. A sure sign of one man's small, domestic fall of Siagon. House was pillaged. A small heap of carefully torn in two photographs and momentos lain perfectly on the floor next to the bed. I remember a note. "If I cannot love you I must now learn to hate you." Think hard enough on it and her logic was unassailable. The logic of her actions was always unassailable. But that night my perspective amounted to this: somehow I am still alive. I don't have to stay up all night anymore. I can go to bed, stretch out, fall asleep with reason to expect I'll wake up still alive. And this: my 71 year old mother has a brain tumor. Incurable. Two deaths I could not mourn more. My mother's and my daughter's.

We kept her in home care for the better part of three months. We meaning three of her five surviving children who could manage finances enough to foot the bill. The second to the last time I saw her alive she remonstrated with me for not quitting my job, moving back home, and caring for her. I accept the charge. Her's too was always perfect logic. She was the most powerful woman I've ever known. I grew up always a little afraid of her. The last time I saw her alive she said that in spite of the seizure induced pain she still had never cursed my father. An Italian, self-styled playboy type, a transient who followed the tourists and skirt, a glorified line cook, who knocked her up, got her pregnant, abandoned a woman who loved him too much, and so abandoned me. How ludicrous I thought. Go ahead and curse the son of a !@#$. I do. Still do for what he did to my mother. She was never the same open, trusting, loving woman after him. I know. She was the first woman to batter me.

Late August '85. I got the papers filing for divorce first. A week later my mother died. I remember an older sister advising me to postpone the divorce proceedings. As clearly I remember thinking, f**k them all. If this is what is required of me I'll meet it.

The day she died. I got the call. I can't remember who called. Whoever it was was smart enough to tell me my mother died and that Aunt Helen was in route to pick me up, bring me down. Aunt Helen, my mother's younger half-sister. Saultry beautiful she was in an older southern woman's way. And a theosophist. Just like Madame Blavatsky. All summer long she tried to get me in her bed. Or mine. She even took a bus ride from her home in Tampa, easily six hours away, to spend a weekend with me. Hot summer day. Hot summer night. I have to say I've never been kissed as fully as Aunt Helen kissed me that night. The kind of kiss that causes the tail spin. When she motioned for me to get out of my desk chair and come to bed with her I somehow came to my senses. I said 'I can't do that Aunt Helen'. Next morning, making her coffee, having slept on the floor, having called her a cab to take her to the bus station, she got it. The blood taboo. But for that I would have let her seduce me. In part, I suspect what Aunt Helen wanted was to comfort me. She would tell my older sister she never saw a man in so much pain, something I wasn't actually aware of at the time.

On the day my mother died the last person I wanted to sit with was Aunt Helen. (One small aside. A brother is still pissed at me for refusing Aunt Helen's advances. Not a boy in the family who didn't fantasize about her.) So I borrowed a car from a friend. In the novel posted here his name is Sean. There are three routes connecting St Augustine to Daytona Beach. I-95, U.S. 1, and A1A. A1A is the coastal highway, two lane blacktop, hugs the shore. Highway of my youth. Road my mother loved, felt free on. Ocean and sand to the immediate east. Swamp, marsh, and palmetto scrub immediately to the west Without thinking, that was my route. Somewhere in route I realized I was going to need a bottle of whiskey to see me through that night. Stopped off at a lonely liquor store. Bought a bottle of Jameson's.

Over the years I've driven through many bad conditions, always determined to meet a destination. That evening I drove through the hardest rain I've ever driven through. I remember this clearly. Frogs, thousands of frogs leaping up onto the road, needing some place relatively dry. I've never driven through a rain storm like that and for that long. I probably killed a few hundred frogs. And I knew instinctively why it rained so hard. The world was mourning my mother's death, she who faught the bastard death hard, never giving in.

Daytona Beach. It is night. Oldest sister is there. In the home our mother bought in 1957 and died in in in 1985. Little brother is there. Aunt Helen soon shows, having come back from St Augustine empty handed. 3061 Esperanza Ave. I think little brother had a guilty conscience. Report has it he hit my mother on occassion, never managing to leave home. I think oldest sister had a bad conscience too. But she shouldn't have. She worshipped our mother and our mother never, not once, respected her for her capacity to love.

That night was a long night. I swear there was a tear in the mathematically symbolized fabric of physics. Everyone else went to sleep in the house our mother owned. I walked with bottle in hand as if it was a nipple. I went down to the beach to get the sea roar in my ears, same roar my mother punctuated her heart beats to, same beat that punctuated my own. I walked the old neighborhood streets. I sat in the swings at the park I had sat in when I was afraid of going back home to her. I climbed the cherry tree my mother proudly planted, that had grown tall, and I sat in it's crook, pulled on the bottle, tried on the fit of a world's garment without her.

I got two hours sleep that night. On the way out of town I stopped in at the funeral home where she was still in situ before the cremation. The attendant was a little taken aback. My oldest sister was uncomfortable. I asked to see my mother's body. In a long standing arguement going back to the day she delivered me, going back to the first two years she farmed me out because I reminded her of my father, I finally got the last word. I lightly touched her forehead and said: "I love you, mother."

Terreson

Last edited by Terreson, Oct/10/2011, 4:23 pm
Oct/10/2011, 2:47 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: The day she died.


Been thinking on the essay. To me it reads like a Kurosawa film script. May decide to flesh out this puppy boy. When you think on it the whole of the 33 years, for her son, amounts to the day she died and he can't relate.

Tere
Oct/14/2011, 5:46 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Christine98 Profile
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Re: The day she died.


hi Tere,

Apologies for not commenting on this sooner as I read it the day it was posted. Yes. Flesh it out but I wouldn't be surprised if turned into a novel/memoir/autobiography, and that would be fine.

Chris
Oct/15/2011, 4:53 pm Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: The day she died.


No apologies needed, Chris. I'm thinking I'll keep to the essay in this case. To me the essay is like an Indiana Jones adventure. Get in the cave. Make snap judgements in progress. Seize the prize. Get out, still making snap judgements. Finally outside you take measure of the artifact. I kind of like the approach.

Tere
Oct/15/2011, 6:47 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
vkp Profile
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This captures an entire lifetime and an entire love. It is relentless and compelling and familiar as it seizes the reader. If it ever becomes something more, it will be worth reading, but it does not need to become something else to be what it is, which is very very good.

Last edited by vkp, Mar/22/2012, 12:15 pm
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Katlin Profile
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Re: The day she died.


Hi Tere,

My thanks to vkp for bumping up this thread. I hadn't read it until today. Since I read just about everything posted on the board, I had to ask myself why? Only explanation I can come up with is that the death of my friend Herman, who was also a father figure for me, was still too close in my mind when you first posted this and so I thought: I can't go there. But today I found myself reading this field note, which I think is more memoir than essay, with great interest and appreciation. Interest in the compelling story being shared and appreciation for the honesty with which it is told. As disturbing as aspects of the story are, I find the piece as a whole very comforting and grounding. Thank you for your honesty and bravery in writing and sharing this with us.

Last edited by Katlin, Mar/11/2012, 6:05 pm
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Terreson Profile
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Re: The day she died.


Boy. I had forgotten about this piece. Thank you, vkp, for bringing it back to mind. Thank you, Kat, for also responding to it.

Not sure what I think about the writing. Or about the concept for that matter. And does it occur to anyone else what a sneaky, subversive opening paragraph the thing starts out with? Some old roue says he wants to write about impossible love(s). Then turns to this. But what child, boy or girl, does not find impossible parent love, father or mother?

Tere
Mar/10/2012, 9:34 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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