Sunday, May 13, 2007

All About Eve

I realized today that I rarely think of her; hardly ever invoke her image in my mind. I can see her now though. Dark, smooth skin and fine features, her hair so soft and light you could see her scalp through it. We were like night and day. Compared to her petite frame I looked like an Amazon. Hard to believe we were mother and daughter.

I remember at her funeral, we (my ex and my oldest son) were cracking jokes at the grave site because it was Halloween. A lot of good material there for smart alecks like us. I should be ashamed to admit it but I’m not. After years of suffering the deterioration of Alzheimer’s, the person we’d buried was no longer my mother. I considered the end of her suffering to be cause for celebration.

Not for my father, of course. He’d just lost his partner of over 40 years. My dad amazed me with how tenderly he cared for mom. He demonstrated a level of caring and compassion I mistakenly thought was beyond him. But even he got impatient at times and who could blame him? Getting mom to eat took a good chunk of the day, she wouldn't open her mouth. At one point she wouldn’t go down any steps, shrinking away with large, fearful eyes as if she were looking down the slopes of Mount Everest. I found I could barely stand being with her more than a half hour let alone live with her. That was where my shame lay. After all the care and concern my mother invested in me and my well-being over the years I couldn’t cope with her when she needed me most.

In my youth, we constantly butted heads; my tomboy ways forever clashing with her desire to transform me into a “young lady.” For her part, my mother was ultra-feminine and always well dressed. Dad was quite disappointed that after she died I couldn’t take any of her clothes or shoes which were much too small for me. He had to send them home to Antigua. They could use them more than I could anyway.

Mom was highly ambitious and believed in keeping up with the Joneses and surpassing them whenever possible. I resented her comparisons of me with other girls she admired—especially Diane who lived a few blocks away from us in Brooklyn. Diane’s smug, holier-than-thou mother, Mrs. Brown, had been my Girl Scout leader and an acquaintance of my mom. It was bad enough being told how inadequate I was in every way next to Diane, but on top of that she always had the coolest toys including Barbie with all the trimmings. To this day I’ve never owned a Barbie. (No wonder I came out the way I did.) I got the last laugh, though, when Miss Pure as the Driven Snow got knocked up before I ever knew where the point of entry was.

Seeing Mom in my mind’s eye I also recall she was always busy. I’m sure that was the result of the West Indian work ethic. Virtually all the West Indians I know, including my ex and his family, are hard working folks. Think of the white tornado in the old Mr. Clean ads and that would be my mom. If she wasn’t cleaning, cooking, ironing, washing or sewing she was tending her prize-worthy garden (now wild and overgrown since her death). In fact the entire house fell into disrepair after mom died. It was thanks to her that the house was a home and Dad didn’t walk around in a holey t-shirt and slippers everywhere. (I once thought of moving to Richmond to live with my dad, you know, to help out. Thank you Lord for not letting me make that mistake!)
To be continued...

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