Tame Human

27 Apr

Draft: Sainted lady who bore painted lines and chemicals well, lucky adoptive mother of 2

Revision: Woman who hated other women, wanted to be the fly on the wall, terrified someone would take her babies from her arms.

 My father recently illuminated my perspective on my mother.

Lately he’s been a lot more open about a lot of things, and it’s helping. I cannot even begin to explain how much it’s been helping. Much of the time, it feels like I was just dropped into life, my memories erased or disproved. To have my father remember and speak of events long gone, it’s a gift.

In the course of speaking of the town I grew up in, a small provinicial rural town, we came to talking about another couple in town who I personally didn’t like all that much. They were insincere, distrusting people who always assumed anyone in their store was there to steal things. They would actually follow you around, making no effort to conceal their activities. (Why they did this to me I don’t know, since I could have gone to my father’s store if I really wanted to steal something).

I casually mentioned that I didn’t mind the wife, Jan.

“Your mother HATED her. With a passion. She grew up with her, and could not stand her.”


You see, my mother was a master at never letting people know what she really thought of them. She had a perfect poker face, and used it well, and often. (Apparently, it also worked on me) My mother was well known in our town, and couldn’t offend anyone. But I never saw the mask come off-not even when the village idiot rudely reminded her that the radiation maps were visible on her skin, like she didn’t know. She never corrected people when they remarked “But you look so good!” upon hearing she had cancer and was undergoing chemo.

My mother was always polite, and always “on”.

Hearing that my mother hated someone actually makes me like her more. My mother also had a temper, a very controlled temper, but on that was there nonetheless. Knowing that after bed, she likely bitched and complained about the local women in the CWL fills me with glee and makes me smile.

My mother was human.

This was further reinforced yesterday, when I mentioned that I wanted to grab something I needed on the way to work, instead of after. My father argued with me, and I kept saying “It’s just the way I want to do it!”

“You’re more like your mother every day, you know that? I’ll do it my way, even if it’s not the better way.”

I love being told this. I love the thought that I truly carry a piece of my mother along with me. I love knowing that she imprinted something on me inherently, that she did create me in her image, regardless of the problems we had between us.

Because she’s a whisper now. I don’t remember her voice. I don’t remember her touch. I remember the things that were fake about her-the wig, the fake jello breast, her simulated leather grey winter purse. I don’t recall her arms around me. She’s almost a dream, but half remembered, almost lost after waking. I  scramble to preserve her around me, to tie these memories and thoughts down to something.

And it always comes back to one thought. Sitting on our front step while my mother coaxed the almost tame squirrels to eat Cheerios from her breast pocket. Sitting very still, so I didn’t scare them. Watching her gentleness as these tiny quaking creatures sat on her shoulder, nibbling, the mother bringing pieces back to her baby, her baby which rarely approaching, instead sitting, watching.

I could sit in that memory for hours.

In memories like this, my mother becomes who I want her to be, who we all want our mother to be. A perfect creature. A mother guarding and guiding her daughter. But in the stories my father will tell, slowly and quietly, she becomes me-she becomes a girl lost and curious, a girl who loved and hated, a woman with real blood and real needs and desires. She becomes all that more real.


I like to imagine that if there is a heaven, my mother rides horses in it, on and on, and that the wind is always sweet, and gentle on her soft skin. The horse is white, yet dappled brown, and tall. Her head is held high, her eyes swollen with happy.

She rides forever, content and free. And now, I can finally start to leave her there.

11 Responses to “Tame Human”

  1. Marcy April 27, 2007 at 3:03 pm #

    I loved reading this. Here’s to more such conversations with your father and anyone else who saw your mom unmasked.

  2. sweetsalty kate April 27, 2007 at 4:00 pm #

    I loved this too. I can see how it’s your mom’s ordinary, everyday humanity that will set her free for you.. as opposed to what she stands for as mother/angel.

  3. Missy April 27, 2007 at 10:28 pm #

    Thank you for sharing, Thor. What an evolution, what a dance you’ve gone through.

  4. bine April 28, 2007 at 5:40 am #

    this is beautiful. i can see how this makes your mother more “real” for you. i hope you have lots more years to discover those things with your dad.

  5. Netter April 28, 2007 at 8:47 pm #

    Your dad’s probably just as happy to share your mom with you this way as you are to have him do it.

  6. Jason Dufair April 28, 2007 at 9:37 pm #

    I wish you had video or audio of her. Maybe you do? I suspect not from the way you talk about the memories fading. I’m glad I have a lot of video and journals of Anna. I hope they help my kids construct an image of Anna that’s reasonably accurate – good and bad. My memory is for shit, so I’ll tell a lot of stories, but I miss the subtleties sometimes. That’s the price I pay for living in the moment.

    Thanks for writing this, Thor. You should get as much out of your dad as you can. We’re all here for a very short time.

  7. thordora April 29, 2007 at 4:44 pm #

    I had a tape with her voice on it once-I’ve searched and searched for it,. but I lost it somewhere.

    I’d give up a lot of things for that tape.

    I think we’re both happy to be able to talk about it after all this time. It’s only taken 18 years….

  8. peppylady April 29, 2007 at 6:42 pm #

    I don’t why people “tame” with age or they look at life differently.

  9. thordora April 30, 2007 at 4:05 pm #

    I think cause you have to. If you didn’t tame, you’d never progress. You’d always be that fiery youth who just doesn’t accept that everything is NOT black/white.

  10. heidi May 1, 2007 at 10:38 am #

    This is my favorite entry from you. It’s so beautiful. I need to start my mom journal. I feel like because I was an adult when she died that my memories won’t fade but I don’t think that’s true. I really want to get my sense of who she was in words and pictures for Molly. Thanks for inspiring and sharing such intimate, truthful things.

  11. thordora May 21, 2008 at 10:30 am #

    bump. I love this.

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