Saturday, September 27, 2014

Disappearing sunflowers

My mother has been dead for six weeks now.  I think of her often.  How is she and has she found out for sure what she once believed and I long doubted, that there is a place out there somewhere where she can finally be at rest? 

It’s a curious confusion because although I operate on the belief that my mother is now no more, she lives on in my imagination and memory and in some strange way she grows bigger on re-remembering. 

One of my daughters intends to write a short biography of my mother as part of a university assignment.  She tells me she plans to write from the perspective of contested truths about my mother.  The differences between the ways my mother represented herself and the perspectives of others who knew her. 

My mother the saint, as distinct from my mother the manipulative scheming - I went to say ‘bitch’ but that seems too harsh by far.  Not my view, never my view.  Manipulative yes, but always as a function of my mother's impotence.  Her inability to ask directly out of a belief that she should somehow do without. 

I put up a picture of sunflowers on my Facebook page three weeks ago.  Glorious, upright, full faced sunflowers.  
They are now ready for the compost bin, sad and dishevelled, an embarrassment in a vase.
They put me in mind of my mother’s body before she died and the direction in which my own body now heads. 

I check my hands from time to time for signs of ageing, the tell tale liver spots, big brown freckles alongside the bulging veins on my otherwise pink fingers. 

The rings on my fingers remain the same.  They scarcely age, though the wedding ring I first wore nearly 37 years ago is beginning to thin out on one side. 

A friend, now in company with my mother out there somewhere, made this ring for me.  He cast it in gold and shaped the image of a man on one side reaching out one hand to a woman on the other.  The man is bigger than the woman.  His shoulders stand upright, the highest point of the ring’s texture, while the woman, who tends to sit on the inside of my hand, is much flatter. 

I wear my ring this way, with the man visible, the woman underneath, not consciously out of any symbolic view, but out of aesthetics and comfort.  If I try to put both figures on top and in full view they look indistinguishable and the bulky man rubs against the sides on my eternity ring on my middle finger, or if I push it against my little finger with the man it feels lumpy. 

I completed one of those inane tests you find on Facebook the other day, one which tells you after you have answered a series of multiple choice questions around your preferences, the type of person you should avoid. 

Turns out the person I should most avoid is a comedian.  The person who spends his time cracking jokes.  The person with whom I can never be serious. 

Like all these quizzes there’s a grain of truth here perhaps, though in such an absolute way as to render it almost meaningless.  

Still it set me thinking. 

I had thought the person I might most seek to avoid is a person like me, a person who talks a lot, who might tend to dominate a conversation, a person who wants to be seen and heard, unlike the woman on my wedding ring, who hides underneath and brushes up against the soft padding of my hand.

Sometimes she rubs against hard objects out there in the world, this woman who wears away into a thin semblance of herself.  This woman who disappears.  


Kirk said...

I admire the honesty in your posts. I wish I could be an honest a writer as you.

who said...

I get the impression that you struggle with your beliefs in regards to the spiritual side of life, but I think most of your bitterness stems for the lies you were taught to believe by men of organized religion

We all have the freedom and freewill to worship and religiously believe in God or a spiritual side of life in any way each of us as individuals see fit, including only believing in our human experience with the physical world

If you wish you did know the truth, for yourself, the only way to prove what I am speaking of (that I know of anyway) is keep some honest journals to give to your children, and hopefully you can convince them to do the same and if it continues through for several generations, by the fourth or fifth I promise you they (you) will know what I say is true

the spirit of your mother, which does have a tangible physical existence did NOT cease to exist. There are aspects of genetics which humane beings do not understand despite the ridiculous false claims newspapers report

Your mother's spirit physically lives, she did however have to choose a new place, she has moved into a new house. She moved out of her parents house and moved in with another spiritual existence.

They together now share a house, that has is where your mother and father have chosen to dwell, it is YOU

And you have also left their house (your parents house) and decided to share a new house with another spiritual existence, you left their house and moved in with your husband to a new house, you and your husband now live in the house of your daughters

It doesn't feel like that because you only know the long time spent in your parents house, it's the majority of the time of life you recognize, but I promise you it isn't a small event this move

and if you think hard, you will remember the intense moment you left, and to use the biblical term "went" with your husband to this new house

and if you pass down honest journals through the generations, you will recognize yourself as a living being long after the house you lived in when you originally began writing, is no longer around

often authors whom write to record the truth, (ie not grammarians nor journalists) but writers like you Elisabeth, are capable of recognizing yourself, which others will not typically be able to experience that "Oh! Aha!" until several generations and only after it being "proved" which requires "knowing" being important enough to more than one generation, as it takes many (sometimes up to ten or twelve) dedicated to keeping the practice if honest journalism, passed down, alive

Anthony Duce said...

Totally enjoyed this writing, as I always do.. So relatable. Of course often the man is the one who will be the first to disappear…

Jim Murdoch said...

I’ve never been a ring person. I bought my first wife an engagement ring and a wedding band; I got a typewriter. Says everything. Carrie hasn’t worn her wedding band in years and it was probably years before I even noticed. Although in some respects I am an old-fashioned kind of guy I’ve never like the whole ownership aspect of the wedding ring; I hate even more the South Asian bindi—why not just brand them and be done with it? Carrie and I’ve been married for some seventeen years—I forget how long but it’s something like that—but we only got married to keep her in the country; it was a practical decision. To my mind people stay together because they want to and that’s it. Once being married meant something. Nowadays finding someone who’s been married for thirty-seven years is unusual and I suspect it will become rarer and rarer. For a while Carrie did wear a ring. I don’t think we bought it. Maybe we did. I can’t remember. I didn’t want one.

What is it about me and memory? Why don’t I hang onto stuff? Neither my mother nor my father grew “bigger on re-remembering”. They’d both been shrinking in my mind for years. I’m not sure when that started—because I can’t remember in which order these events took place—but as far as my dad went it will’ve been either when he had his heart attack (Christ, the old man’s human!) or when he spilled the paint in the hall and I found him on the floor in tears (Christ, the old man’s human!). Anyway from about the age of twelve. And over the years the walls came tumbling down until not a stone was left on a stone.

I mostly avoid those tests on Facebook. They’re pretty much a waste of time and I can think of more interesting ways to waste my time although why anyone who’s got fewer years left to live than they’ve already lived would want to waste a minute more I’ve no idea. From what I know of comedians I would imagine most of them wouldn’t be great company for any length of time. I certainly wouldn’t want to live with another me. Christ knows how my wife puts up with me. Part of it will be to do with the fact that I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t care if she wears a wedding ring or not. Carrie did a test online a few days ago. It was: How long have you been married? She asked me what I thought the answer was. I said, “Forty-five years.” I was spot on.

who said...

was what I was getting at, with my previous comment

Anonymous said...

Sorry I don't have a sage comment to make re the essence of your post, but I am fascinated by your wedding ring. Did you or your husband design it or did the jeweller create an original design for you?
However, I am also on a journey of discerning just what theological truths apply following my own experience of my husband's death.
Funny how you can hold a belief as truth until you are faced with its reality.
Karen C

Elizabeth said...

I am sorry to hear about your mother, Elisabeth. I am struck, again, by the starkness of your writing and by how much feeling and emotion and power are contained in so few words.

As an aside, I've always thought sunflowers have faces like women.