A love song for my mother.
My mom will tell you I never write about her and I guess I don’t. We’ve had difficulties in our relationship. Mostly because we are too much a like, stubborn, opinionated, fire-in-belly, and not shy to show it. Two people like that always seem to bump heads. I love my mother. Deeply. She loves me deeply. But we always find away to not connect the dots between us. There is no big reveal here. She was, is, and always will be, a great parent. I have friends with mothers who are the exact opposite, and I thank God for my mother.
Lately I’ve found a way to keep us centered. I don’t argue with her about things that she says that I disagree with. I want to, but sometimes the best thing you can do is to shut up. I guess that was the problem when I was younger. I always wanted to be heard, always need to have the last word. The older I get the more interested I become in listening.
I don’t think I ever thought about our relationship much in the last couple years. Just kind of maintained. Not to say we didn’t have our ups and downs in that period, but I haven’t fully examined it. And then a couple months ago I saw Passing Strange on Broadway, and it all came back to me. All the anger, self-righteousness, the resentment. I look back on all those petty feelings and realize that my whole relationship with my mother has been framed by the mind of a teenaged kid. That many of the decisions I made in my life that my mother vocally disagreed with were decisions of child that have impacted me as an adult, and she knew it. Of course she did, cause she’s dealing with her own. I don’t know what hers are, but I know we all face them.
After I saw Passing Strange, I realized that the tough spots in our relationship came because she loves me, cause she wants the best for me. It’s such a Hallmark sentiment, something that I the introspective poet should have picked up on a long time ago. But we all got our own blind spots, and I guess this was one of mine. I think it’s gotta be hard for a parent to have a child like me. Especially from my mother’s generation. In her mind the man went to work got a good job, pension, and raised his family. He didn’t go off and decide to travel the country to recite poems. She grew up with 3 brothers two of which became alcoholics, and never lived up to their potential. I think my chosen lifestyle must have scared the hell out of her, probably still does.
Through my childhood she could be tough on me. When I got older, she was even tougher. No coddling, nothing. I always felt because I couldn’t live up to my father’s example, she just didn’t love me. I was never going to be a Baptist preacher. I was never going to be able to live in the 9 to 5 world. All I could do is me. Because of all that heavy stuff I use to think she didn’t support me. For years I held this idea in my heart that one day, I would show her. Show her that I am somebody. That my art has value. That I have something to say. That in some ways I am like my dad, we just are talking to different congregations. For years I wanted to tell her, I’m not the person she thinks I am. That I’m not some selfish artist that doesn’t care about anyone else. ‘Cause I’m not. For years I wanted her to see the real me. That was one of the motivations that pushed me on to prove to her.
One day I was so mad at her, I needed vent, so I stopped by my friend, Keith house. Keith is close to twenty years older then me and for the last five years has become somewhat of an Uncle to me. We were sitting on his porch and he patiently listened to me. He looked down at the floor and said, “Sounds like your right on this one”. Before I could pat myself on the back he said “But she’s the only mother you got. You know what I’d give to talk to my mother?” It struck me then. You only get one shot with most of the people in your life. When they are gone they are gone.
The lead in Passing Strange takes a similar journey. I’m listening to the soundtrack now and it’s all coming back to me. This week I stand on the verge of some really excellent professional possibilities on several different fronts, somewhat of a milestone year. I can’t wait till the ink is dry on all of these deals to tell the world. I thought at this point I would feel some sort of vindication. Like I could finally tell my mother, see I was right! I thought I would feel validation, that I’d see her and gloat over it. I realize how foolish I was. What I feel now, is this overwhelming desire to ask her forgiveness. For all those stupid things I thought, the dumb things I’ve said, the heartbreak I put her through. I want to thank her, because she was the one that prepared me for all the obstacles I have to face. She never did it in spite she did it because that’s what a parent does for a child. All the times I thought she wasn’t supporting me, she was making me strong so I could support myself.
My mother will tell you I never write about her. But that’s not true, she’s behind every word, she just never took the credit.
I love you mommy