Friday, October 29, 2010

I Mull

My mom died when I was three, and the only memories I have are vague and untrustworthy, more likely wishes than memories. I have four older brothers, the youngest is five years older than I am, and I’ve always felt some jealousy over the fact that they knew her, had conversations with her, and can summon at will memories of her that they know to be true. I’ve never really given much thought to what my life would have been if she hadn’t died. She did, it’s all I’ve ever known, and not having really known her, I have no comparisons to make. But a few years ago, hanging out with a friend and talking about the things you talk about late at night, he said to me, “Maybe it’s better your mom died when you were young. It spared you the pain of having to lose her later on.” It sounded wrong to me as soon as I heard it, but as I usually do, I didn’t react. Faced with a deep thought like this, I mull. Like cider. It’s one reason I can never have a profound conversation. I have to turn things over and over and over in my head before I know what I really think. So, after thinking about my friend’s comment for hours, days, and weeks, I decided my first reaction was the right one. Following his train of thought to it’s logical conclusion, he was more or less saying that no matter how wonderful an experience might be, the possibility that it might involve pain makes it something to avoid, and, in my opinion, no one should go through life with a philosophy like that. Even if my mother had lived to be 60, the pain of her passing would now be dull, but my memories of her would not be. So there’s something else I need to teach my kid someday, maybe when they have their first crush. I just need to think of a better way to say it.

21 days until baby.


  1. You are wise, Bill. Your mother would be proud of you and so excited for this new life that is indeed an echoing out of her life too... A.

  2. True you may have missed out on the whole mom thing pal. AND You made out ok, trust me on that one...Mom made sure of it. EVERYBODY loved Billy;) Instead you had one of many moms...all that love you very much. Which is why you probably ended up being the most grounded of the five of us. Its reflected in your even keeled, nurturing persona. Except for the fact you got my cottage key taken away, you skipped school, and you got kicked off the spotlight crew by Mr. turned out ok. Its no accident that kids love you. I thought I was only four years older than you...

  3. Everything in life is cyclical. Pain is just another point on the cycle that we will pass continually throughout life. So is happiness. It all balances in the end. Death is part of life - and it happens at all stages and all ages. I've always felt that the human species' greatest failing is believing that life should be without negativity (including that death is something that can be escaped and feared). These are impossible expectations and lead to many of the social and emotional issues we face (this is particularly true in Western cultures). In studying nature, one sees how other species experience the negative aspects of life, acknowledge it, yet move beyond that moment (even though they may not forget the event - consider elephant visits to the remains of their relatives even years after the passing). Teaching your child how to deal with life's negative aspects will be one of most valuable tools he or she will have to navigate the still and choppy waters that will characterize your child's voyage.

  4. I think your friend gave you a knee-jerk comment. Maybe, to ease your pain. I cannot know.What I do know is your philosophy is right on target. All those moments and experiences have helped form the person you are today. So too your unborn baby's personality will be formed by moments and experiences. They will not all be pleasant ones, but they will be important ones. Unfortunately we cannot pick the moments that impact us. Some will be significant, others will be, for reasons beyond me, "meaningless". Your job will be to shower your family with love and happiness so as many of those moments and experiences are good ones.

  5. I, too, had to take time to think.... Bill, I am sorry that you lost your mother. As one whose mother died when I was six, I totally agree with you. I have a few memories of my mother, but only of things that she did. I did not know her as a person with feelings, opinions, dreams…. Her mother, my Nana, was the mother in my life, loving me with all her heart and energy, supporting me, and being the best role model imaginable. Hopefully, those robbed of a parent (or parents) when young find strength and love from others and get through it.
    Not until my children were grown did I explore my feelings about such loss and what might have been. I was too busy being the best mother I could be to them. Sometimes it was difficult for me to get too attached to a dog, a boy, or a close friend because of the fear and pain of losing them. I have learned through my children that those experiences of love and joy are worth it-- no matter what.

  6. Amy, Thank you! I just wish she could be here to meet her new grandchild!

    Tommy, Wow - thanks a lot for writing what you did. It means a lot. And I didn't get kicked off the lights crew, I just wasn't asked back because Father Mark David didn't like me. The cottage key was my fault, though.

    MJ - I can't agree more. I don't think anyone can truly appreciate life until they appreciate death, and these days, death is shrink-wrapped, sanitized, and held at arm's length or behind a flowery screen. The one good thing that came out of my mom's passing was my understanding that life ends, and that's for all of us.

    Tony - I love how you put that. I've been thinking a lot about those little moments lately - why I remember certain ones and not others, and how some of those little moments are the ones that shape everything that comes after. It's probably not good to think about that too much. I'll never want to make a decision for fear my kid will hold it against me forever.

    Anne - Thank you for sharing, and I'm sorry that you lost your mom at such a young age, too. I often wonder if I've dealt with the whole experience fully, or if that's still to come. I do have to say that I was fortunate - as my brother mentioned in one of the other comments - to have a slew of "moms" caring for me and loving me. That's more than a lot of kids can say these days.