Thursday, May 06, 2010

Gone beyond

My mother died in March. At the time, the exigencies of dealing with her deterioration (48 hour trip to New England, return to Lubbock, only to have her decease 2 days later), the memorial service and accompanying family complexities, a hellacious semester with multiple personnel and budgetary melt-downs, and my own crisis-moment tendency to go into emergency-coping mode, meant that I didn't do much conscious mourning.

I was moved by the open sorrow expressed by my siblings, especially by my brothers--two remarkable, admirable men--and their spouses, which quartet had been primarily responsible for her care in the wake of my step-father's death last summer, and her subsequent and very swift descent into Alzheimer's. I could weep for them, and their sorrow--but not so much for her.

But, as I said to another friend at the time, "my relationship with my mother was sort of classically fucked-up", and it was--mostly due to the absolutely horrific legacy of family dysfunction to which both my parents were subjected as children. My mother was too unhappy, too damaged, to be an especially effective parent, despite the fact that she manifestly loved her kids. And she fucked me over, over and over again, in the area of my vocation to music. There are reasons I was in therapy for 12 years, and she--and the legacy of my monstrous grandmother--were two major ones.

Here's my own brief articulation, from eight years ago:

These Wooded Hills

These wooded hills and rocky shores
are the
memory of my childhood;

whipped by salt Atlantic waves,
traced by crumbling dry stone walls;
marked by cowshit and the cry of gulls,

gouged by retreating glaciers of a last Ice Age;
and the faint whispering voices
of old wars, old words, old violence, old victories.

Granite, oak, slate, and pine;
topsoil's topography ripped away,

leaving the bones.
So I was pretty damned grateful when Dharmonia wrote this, which expressed pure, open, Bodhisattva mourning for Bobby Smith Thomas in a way couldn't. And then I could weep for her:
While driving to a funeral

Bobby is gone, gone, gone beyond
Gate gate paragate
Parasamgate bodhi svaha

Her son at the wheel driving east
Rain is lashing at the windshield,
spraying up from the passing trucks
and while thinking of how we pass
from life into death, around us
life continues its circus
in the sheeting rain, driving wind
Massachusetts bumper stickers:
Obama is still President,
My Other Car is still a Broom,
Jesus Saves and the Yankees still suck
This my home state, and now, and now
One last journey to the North Shore
At least for reasons tied to blood
And bone, and the love of this man
And the others who share that blood

And how strangely appropriate
The blinding rain and shrieking wind
To sagas stories and plot lines
To complicated webs of past,
To layers of pride and of doubt
To all the love and the anger
Kneaded into the famous bread
And those who came to adulthood
In the eye of this hurricane
Each making their own peace with her
She was not my mother, and yes
I saw the complicated side
But I loved her for bringing him
Into the world in the first place,
And for what she wanted to be,
And for the things she tried to be,
And was, when clarity could cut
Through what had been handed to her.
A friend of mine once said to me
“One can be a difficult parent
And still be a great friend,” and
She was that to me, and it is
A terrible thing to witness
A heart beating in the shambles
That Alzheimer’s leaves in its wake--
So you will understand, when I
Saw the ashes mixed with earth, why
I spoke the mantra “gone beyond”

Gate gate paragate
Parasamgate bodhi svaha

the doorless doors of the Pure Land
do not require us to bring
All of our Stuff along with us
No eyes no ears no nose no mouth
No junk no faults no garbage, but
Just the cloudless blue sky of mind.
I am grateful that I have such loving people in my life. I need them.



Anonymous said...


masbrow said...


LADYBUG said...

Hi, I just found you, it has been interesting to read you, I found honesty in your writings, I hope I am not dweling in deep feelings, but I found pain, maybe regrets?
every family has its own story, we are not alone in this world, our story can relate with someone in the other side of the world, thanks God for me there was forgiveness, it worked.
thank you for sharing.