My man, his mother is a dream, a memory, so real to him, and yet so mysterious. He talks about her as if he remembers her well, and then one day with tears in his eyes, he finally tells me he doesn’t know her. Even so, over time and one-by-one he has shared intimate things about his 7 years with her. The kinds of things that I know about my mother after 46 years together. Like how much she loved him. Enough to leave a father who might have hurt them. How she picked and fussed at him like a monkey-mama, like all mamas do.
She was a rebel, she must have wanted something different for her child. More freedom? Less dogma? She, raised a good Catholic girl, coming of age in the 60’s, taking him to beaches, to live amidst the sequoia in the Santa Cruz mountains, and to Mexico, following after the traveling surfer who was his father. Who in the end was just a man they left on a beach somewhere forever. He remembers these kinds of things about her, and he is also free to create her for himself.
When she died suddenly at 27, without a pause, his grandmother and his aunts took over where she had to leave off. In truth, he lacked for nothing outside of her presence, which I am certain was everything to him. I met him for the first time when he was a teenager still, grieving her hard, though I’m not sure even now he knows that. I remember that he seemed conflicted like all young men coming of age, but there was something else too. And I was surprised when I met him again so many years later, at how he was really a grown up man, and not angry any more.
He said that no one should ever have to lose their mother, he said with tears in his eyes that it’s the worst thing that can happen to a child. He has talked about the horrible nightmares and headaches he suffered after her death. But he also knows that he was given an amazing gift wrapped up in that horribleness. A gift of deep understanding of the kinds of things that people can often not find until they are very old, and sometimes can never find. The gift of understanding the fierce, unconditional female love of his mother’s mother and her sisters in the wake of his loss, and the gift of learning how to persevere, and how to be happy even when the worst thing imaginable comes to pass. An understanding of the preciousness of his one life. And I am certain he can only know this because of who she truly was, and because of how she loved him.