essays by Shé

Posts Tagged ‘mom’

Mary Patricia Kathleen

In Love on June 6, 2022 at 11:47 am

“I love you, gorgeous girl!” says Mom. I am between sleeping and waking, delighted to hear her voice. She sounds like she did in her thirties: vibrant, happy, raring to go. Her energy warms my heart, causing an hours-long smile. Unbeknownst to me, her body is in the New Orleans VA hospital: COVID, pneumonia, collapsed lung. She’s on a ventilator, and slated for dialysis.

“I’m not dying,” she says when I finally receive the messages from brother, doctor, father. She repeats this all week as I cycle through the stages of grief, reminding me that the body dies, but the spirit cannot. I take long walks, commune with the mountains, get my ass in the ocean often. “Stay where you are and write.”

I finally connect with my brother Friday afternoon. He yells and cries, “Where have you been? Don’t you want to be a part of this?” After awhile he is able to hear me. I am a part of this. We’re all a part of this. And the woman told me to stay here.

I haven’t always obeyed her in the past — ha! But the mountains chime in, Stay. I walk to the sea after we hang up. Should I go? Should I stay? The Clash song has never been more relevant. Clarity arrives on the hike back up: mountains don’t lie.

I email my father, “Not going to NOLA at this time.” Then notice a voicemail. “She was just waiting for us to talk,” says Jim with a laugh-sob. “The doctor called. She’s left her canoe.”

Her labels and names: Daughter, Niece, Friend, Dancer, Pianist, Lieutenant, Wife, Lover, Mother, Aunt, Irish Catholic, Pagan, Fighter, Pacifist, Pat, Mary Pat, M-Pat, Mom, Mary PK Turn, Bitch, Witch, Liar, Storyteller, Physical Therapist, Divorcée, Kinesiologist, Student, Healer, Teacher, Guru, Smoker, Alcoholic, World Traveler, Tree Whisperer, Pizza Slut, Grandy, long-time Jazz Fest Supporter and Second-line Follower, Catalyst — all gone.

She’s just as chatty now as when she was embodied. We had a fight about which path to take to the snorkel spot on Saturday. A dead tree limb whacked my cheekbone, drawing blood. Bushes scratched my ankles. But I stayed on my path, not hers. We are both hardheaded, even without a head.

Today she is gleeful, untethered, opinionated, apologetic. Am I delusional? Am I just talking to myself? Doubtful. She is still one of the few people who can make me laugh until I pee my pants.

This morning I hike down to a saline pool on the edge of the island and float. Tiny pale fish gently nibble my body: armpits, legs, face, eyelashes, arms. We lived in Klamath when I was five, after Johnny left his body. I’d sit on the dock over the river and let the fish tickle my toes. Today, as then, it makes me giggle. I am food.

Mary Patricia Kathleen Magonigle VanTine Braunlich — I am loving you.

Mary Patricia Kathleen Magonigle VanTine, Butler PA USA
Mary Patricia Kathleen Magonigle VanTine, Butler PA USA, circa 1945

Essay #10: mothering

In Love on May 9, 2011 at 3:53 pm

I woke up yesterday feeling like I finally got it, the whole mother thing. If I need mothering, I can do it myself. After all, who better than me to know what I want? Expectations of my mother dropped away – freedom!

Today I feel like I did before: angry at her, and sad we’re not talking. Damn revelations.

“No shame, no blame, everything is beautiful,” said Meg before leading an improv exercise. An excellent motto. Perhaps I’ll paint it on my car.

I did not call my mother on Mothers Day. I am trying to do what I actually want to do, instead of what I should do. Today I am suffering guilt and anxiety. I don’t want to hurt her, but I am tired of hurting me.

Taking care of myself is trickier than I thought.

Early on, I learned not to have any needs that couldn’t be met by my mother. I learned not to want.

But I am human. I want and need — despite my best efforts — shelter, love, support.
And when she couldn’t or wouldn’t help me, I thought I wasn’t worth helping.

Wrong splenation. It only meant that she — one woman — couldn’t help me, not that I shouldn’t be helped. Where’s the damn village when you need it?

The fact is, I love my mother. It’s just taken me a long time to catch on to the fact that I don’t need her, nor does she need me. She can mother herself. I can mother myself. She is no longer my source of nourishment. Nor am I hers.

But I keep fishing in the same tired stream. And just over the hill behind me is the ocean.

Part of me wants to stay by the stream, even though I’m hungry. A misguided sense of loyalty, love, and hope keeps me sitting here, even though I can hear the ocean roar. Occasionally, I hike over the hill, jump in the sea, remember who I am, and who I can be. But I always return to the stream.

And maybe that’s okay for a time.
I’ll just leave my fishing pole behind.

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