Saturday, January 15, 2011

Forever Indebted

Irrespective of how old you are and how old you live to be, you are forever someone's son or daughter. You cannot out kick your coverage in that regard. It is Oscar Wilde who once wrote, "No man is rich enough to buy back his past." It is equally true that no one is rich enough or old enough to ever throw off the yoke of the ones who made him entirely. It will not stop one from acting as if he or she has done so but at day's end you cannot change biology.

In the "son of" department I made out better than I should have I suppose. My father was no one's day at the beach to be sure but as I creep to within a couple of weeks of my 44th birthday I also can see on the horizon line the 30th anniversary of Dad's death. Thus, while it is true that his legacy outlived him it is also true that he has been dead a very long time - 2/3 of my life give or take a year.

As luck most assuredly has it, Mom is still living La Vida Joanie in Florida. Just as I entered what I understand some folks consider to be among the most important stretches of a young person's life, she became the whole show parentally speaking. An absolutely remarkable woman my mother is. She might very well be the bravest person I have ever met. For in the immediate aftermath of the death of her husband - who died intestate, with no life insurance and almost negligible assistance from the Social Security System into which he had paid for close to four decades (the first one was Dad's doing but both the second and the third were done onto him and onto us by others) - and with three kids still to try to get through college, she could have curled herself up in a ball and cried herself off into oblivion. She did not. When within eighteen months or so of his death she was diagnosed with breast cancer and required to undergo treatment that was equal parts excruciating and terrifying, she could have taken her bat and her ball and gone home. She did not.

One learns a lot about the thin line that separates standing and fighting from turning and running when one grows up at the font of everything she has been and continues to be. Among the things one learns - especially when one possesses the propensity to screw up that the aging idiot whose reflection I see in the bathroom mirror every morning - is that you never outgrow the empty feeling associated with doing something that disappoints her. That feeling that makes you reflect upon the fact that if only you possessed the ability to throw a meaningful punch you would sock yourself squarely in the nose.

Being who she is she believes now as she has believed for at least forty-three years and eleven-plus months of which I am aware that if she does not express her disappointment in something done to you that you will not pick up on it. Fortunately I was raised by a woman from whom I inherited my ability to read people, the things they say and those that need not be said. While her effort is selfless and valiant, it is ultimately unsuccessful. As it should be.

It should be for while one remains forever the son or daughter of one's mother and father, one cannot remain forever a child. One may not grow any smarter. To a certain extent that remains a matter of choice. But one must grow up. And in so doing accept responsibility for things done and those left undone.

Regrettably, not too old to screw up. Mercifully, not too old to be forgiven....

....though I suspect that is a far better reflection on her than upon me.

-AK

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