Sunday, September 2, 2012

In My Mother's Voice



Her voice was deep and rich, full of peace and promise, and that's not hyperbole or prejudice. She had an amazing voice. Whether speaking or singing, the timbre reached down into the depths of your soul, uprooted all that was unnecessary, and uplifted all that was. So, why I felt the need to speak for her, ever, is a mystery. I have some ideas, but those are metaphysical in nature and for another post, perhaps.

Mom kept the family peace, or tried to, despite the harangues that were sometimes leveled against her and rarely showed her hurt. I would quite often, out of a show of solidarity and great love, do that for her. As she remained silent I would jump up from my chair, usually at the dinner table, and raise my voice on her behalf, speaking (rather loudly) about my anger over the family's inability to accept whatever thought she had offered. Diving headfirst into what I saw in that moment as her infinite goodness, I would buoy her up whether she asked for it or not, and she never asked for it. She didn't need my help but that did not deter me. I pressed on in her defense until my own anger was spent.

If the subject was mushrooms and she had pronounced those growing in the yard as edible, even as other family members questioned her ability to know such things, well, they were going to be pronounced edible if I had anything to say about it. And say it I did, vociferously, all the while reminding them, in layman's terms, of her innate intelligence. But, it wasn't about her intelligence or her mushroom savvy. There were higher issues involved here and when I was young it was all about justice and the disenfranchised having their say. My mother did not fit that category by any specifications other than as a woman married to a man who sometimes resented (my interpretation) her brilliance.

If the subject was her weight - something she struggled with her entire life until disease took its toll on her body - and she was being castigated by my father even as she raised a fork to her mouth with another bite of blueberry pie, a delicious pie of her own making, I would stand up in her defense and in support not only of her culinary abilities, which were myriad, but also her right to have as many bites as she wanted. She could, in fact, "eat the whole damn pie if she want[ed]."

My tirades usually ended with me storming out of the room, taking refuge in my bedroom in the earlier days, or in the basement, and occasionally a certain secluded rock along the lake shore near our home. Eventually, another family member would come looking for me, reassure me I was right, although my timing might have been off, and then quietly lead this black sheep back to the fold.

In later years, when her voice had been eroded by disease and she could seldom muster a response, her voice would occasionally still come through - low, rough and whispered. Near the end, when I called her on the phone, desperate to hear her voice again, and told her I was thinking of going back to a relationship I'd left a few years before, she said, clearly and distinctly, "You can't go back."  It was not advice, it was a philosophical stance she was taking and it was the last time I recall hearing her voice in all its beauty. The strength it took for her to say that, and for me to hear it, serves as a reminder that life is always about moving forward. Moving forward and letting go, including every perceived act of injustice or unkindness. Just let it all go. It's what my mother would want.



In the end
these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?

~ Siddhartha





36 comments:

  1. Oh, Teresa, this made me cry. I am sitting here simply awash in memories of my own mother, which were evoked by your beautiful story of your sweet mother. And that Siddhartha quote hit me deeply. Thank you, dear one.

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    1. Thank You, Jan. Our mother's help form our lives in many ways, and I believe that our parents wish for us to grow and move beyond any pain we feel they might have caused. They are still moving down the River of Life with us, they are just up ahead, around the next bend, and can see things we can't yet, but will.

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  2. Hello Teresa:
    We often feel that as we grow older, we see more of our mothers in everything that we do. Perhaps we all become like our mothers eventually? And, what an inspiring woman your mother sounds to have been and, has no doubt, influenced you in so many ways that you neither dreamed possible as a young child nor indeed how you expected.

    But, to never go back is a philosophy that we have held to strongly throughout our lives. At times, this has been easy, at others, a most painful decision,but, in the end, looking to the future with all the uncertainty that it brings does add a spirit of adventure to life that we certainly enjoy.

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    1. Whenever someone who knew my mother tells me that I remind them of her, I feel I've been paid the best compliment ever. I want to always honor the good in my parents, and let anything else that might have been just wash away. It seems like the right thing to do.

      And no looking back. :)

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  3. I'm not sure what to say but for sure WOW. This must of been difficult to share. Thanks for doing so.

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    1. It was, Tom, but I'm so glad I did. Thank you.

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  4. Dear Teresa, tears aren't trickling down my cheeks as I sit here after reading your posting. But they are welling in my innards. Your fierce defense of your mother. Her clarion voice and brilliance. Your own determination that all should be fair. Your father's bruised ego. And your mother's last clear call to be true to yourself and to embrace the possibility of newness within and without. And then the Siddhartha quote. Thank you.

    This poignant posting must have been hard to write, but it serves to remind me of the great goodness of my own mother and of my father, who, when drunk, would ridicule her as his mother did. The pain of watching my mother's face then is with me still. Peace.

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    1. I always felt that my mother and I had a deep understanding of one another. She Knew me, my inner self, and I feel I'm honoring that in my writing.

      I think the greatest gift we can give our parents and our children is to break any old patterns that might have been passed on from generation to generation. If we don't break the old paradigms, who will?

      Thank you, Dee,from my heart.

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  5. This post has touched me more deeply than any I've ever read, here or elsewhere. Although Mama has been gone 23 years, hardly a day passes I don't think of her and still yearn to hear her voice once again. Thank you Teresa for giving us all a piece of your beautiful soul and that of your mother's. To be able to walk in a wise mother's footsteps is a great accomplishment. How fortunate can one be than to carry her/those traits.

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    1. Oh, dear Sissy, thank you so much. I'm glad for our shared emotions this morning. I try to honor my parents, and all they provided for me, in how I live my life. Again, thank you.

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  6. I came here this morning after reading your comment on my blog and yet again, another excellent post that just happened to be exactly what I needed to here (and possibly share with ny daughter). I don't think I have the voice that you speak of but I do have the opinions and sometimes take a lot of heat because of my opinions on things. I have always said that if I am wrong, I will say so and stand corrected but if I know something to be true, then I have to speak up. Some people take that as an insult, some take it as my being a know-it-all, but when you are right, you are right. The photo of your mother is just beautiful. I often think to myself: why don't I know more people here where I live that have personalities and opinions like you do? I know we would be fast friends if you lived around the corner. Thank god that I am able to "know" you through our blogs! I am truly blessed!

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    1. You and I share many interests and viewpoints about life, Teri. I'm so grateful for our connection.

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  7. You touched me today Teresa. Thank you.

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  8. This is a beautiful post. I will be coming back to it but I wanted to comment now instead of later. I love that you defended your mother when you thought it was necessary, and that she gave you good advice right up until her last words.

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    1. I've never felt bad about standing up for what I believed to be right. My mother and I never discussed it, ever. I have a feeling, though, that she appreciated my willingness to stand up for her. And, she always gave good advice. :)

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  9. You were both very fortunate to have each other.
    She lived through you at the time.
    Now you live through her.

    But, but, I have to know.
    Did you go back? :-)

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    1. There's a great deal of truth in what you say here, RZ. And, no, I didn't go back. She was right. :)

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  10. Wow, you really rocked me just now. This is exactly the place I needed to be. "Uprooted all that was unnecessary and uplifted all that was." Damn. Nice work, T. I know what you mean about the voice. Some people just have that golden sound. I really like the Howard Zinn quote. You bring me hope when I feel I have none. I'm glad you're in the world. I like you.

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    1. Good Morning, Will. Thank you so much. I'm glad you like the Zinn quote. I just added it a couple of days ago. I'm glad you're in the world, too, Will. You are adding some very fine thoughts to the shaping of our world. It's good to hear from you.

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  11. The letting go I have hard time doing, you've spoke of your mother before but this is a nice new nuance to learn of.

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    1. Thank you, Linda. Like all people, there are many facets to her life.

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  12. This article says a lot about your mother but it speaks loudly and eloquently about her daughter, you.

    Your mother lives while you have her as firmly and clearly in you heart.

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    1. Thank you, Friko. Your response means a great deal to me.

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  13. What a moving tribute. When I read things like this, I marvel at the blessing of having a mother you feel that way about.

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    1. There are many people who had mothers they do not feel this way about, but my wish for them is to try to see their own mothers in a new light.

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  14. Loved this, your honesty, the rawness of it.

    So well done.

    Pearl

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    1. Thank you, Pearl. Hope all is well in the big city.

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  15. Another fine post Teresa. You were a bit of a rebel. Your mother sounds a lot like mine.

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    1. Ba,Ba, black sheep. :) We have so many similarities in our lives. Maybe that mid-western thing, but it feels nice. Thanks, Steven.

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  16. When men speak irreverently or disrespectfully to women all women are under siege. Kudos for you for defending your Mom. In a culture where Mothers and daughters frequently battle during a daughters adolescence it is wonderful and heart warming to hear about your defense of your Mom. Good for you. Don't ever stop speaking up for those who do not speak up for themselves.

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    1. There was a wonderful connection between us that even adolescence couldn't break. we got through it pretty peacefully. I spoke up for my mom right up to the end of her life, and have never regretted it. Speaking up when it's apparent it needs to be done is essential for our own hearts and souls. Thank you, Bill.

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