Opening The Slammed Door
Imperfect Prose with Emily take a look you will be blessed.
It is strange what one forgets, and what one chooses to remember, like sifting fresh milk for cream, the liquid falls through while the thick cream remains at the top, tart and strong, ready to be used for another purpose. It has been over 30 years since her death, though the memories of my mother are faded, they are also frequent. Her brief life a constant reminder to me of life’s frailties, for I lost her long before her death to mental illness.
Being a child I was ignorant to the lack of normality in our lives. All I had known was seclusion and her fits from grandeur to gloom and despair. And though I can no longer recall her voice, I can still hear her words, and feel her silences, like echoes from a deep canyon.
Ever since I was grown with a child of my own, I have been all the more aware of the oddity of that time and the vacancy of the relationship I had with her. I had spent many of my younger years hating her for the way she was, and holding on to the bad memories like a shooting gun. It wasn’t until I was an older adult facing my own mistakes and weaknesses , that I came to better understand the frailties of her illness, and how in that time of less awareness, she was left helpless to succumb to its affects. How different her life might have been with help and the right medication.
The last time I saw her, I was nine years old. It was my first day of fourth grade. I do not recall anything about school that day, I can only remember she had been very ill and ended up in the hospital while I was gone. My father picked me up early and took me to her. I recollect feeling the usual sick in my heart feeling I would experience when she was admitted. Uncertainty has a grip that can shake you like a mixed drink, and it doesn’t let go until its drunk. It is a sensation that one never gets used to.
That day has been relived in my mind countless times. My brother, my dad, and I were all standing at the end of her hospital room, when suddenly something was very wrong. What happened before that moment, I could not tell you, but the rest I can see as if it were a new movie I just watched. She tensed up with a horrible gasp and then went limp. My father yelled for a nurse, and then it was mass confusion, just like on the movies. They rushed my brother and I out like cattle, to a waiting room that it felt like we spent the rest of my childhood in. Somehow, I ended up in the front lobby, where my father asked me if I wanted to go home or to Grandma’s house. My reply was simply a question, “is Mommy coming home?” He paused with a look of suffering that must have aged him 10 years, and then told me softly that she had passed away. Without even taking a moment to blink I chose Grandma’s house, and then calmly waited to leave. It took years for me to realize how unusual my reaction was, and come to terms with the bitterness I had towards her. Sometimes it is easier to hold on to the anger than to let go and deal with the loss of someone special.
Now I sit here at my desk sorting through the memories of what was and what should have been, contemplating my words, like the solutions to world peace. I don’t want to be remembered for my weaknesses, nor be the excuse for another’s, and I suppose my mother did not either. If I venture back to our old home near Milam Road, to the old metal swing set facing the west, I can recall a certain summer day as a very small child. I slipped from the swing, and in landing on the ground the metal seat came back and hit me in the head. I just sat there crying, until my mother quickly picked me up in her arms and rushed me inside, slamming the screen door behind us. She then hurried to put ice on my wound. I don’t know why it is one of the few good memories I have my relationship with her, but I do know it is worth holding on to and remembering over and over again.