Monday, June 15, 2009

June 14, Shakespeare, Mom

Yesterday was June 14--my mother's birthday...she would have been 86. Strike that. She turned 86 in my heart yesterday. Happy birthday, mom. I miss you. Not every day, but often enough. Yes, indeed, certainly enough. It was my mother's death that taught me the meaning of the word 'forever'. Like the first time you actually come in contact with a barracuda in the open sea. Just you, the 2' barracuda, a beautiful reef, clear Bermudean water, and a beach about a lifetime away. So!!!! That's what they look like. Damn!! I had no idea! Forever. Oh...
Yesterday was also Flag Day. I'm not sure what Flag Day was all about. Probably a show of patriotism. But I remember being taken by my mother to Flag Day services in our town. Some gray old man in a suit would say important words in front of a monument listing the names of the honored dead from WWI and WWII. I'm not sure if the Korean War honored dead had made it up there yet.
I was there because I was named for my mother's brother who was killed in Italy in his own side. 'Friendly Fire'. My son is named for his mother's brother who was blown up disarming a land mine in Viet Nam. He was shipped home in a bag labeled "Body Parts". There was an accompanying letter telling my wife's grief-stricken family that no one was sure which parts belonged to whom, so it might be Tommy, but it might be someone else. Sorry.

So, what's in a name? Well, in Tom's case, his name is a talisman--something to protect him from the treachery of this world; also a constant reminder of a loved one gone forever, but also here in the namesake of his nephew. In my case probably all of the above as well as a constant reminder of the unspoken, obscene costs of every war. I watched my mother suffer every day when she visited her mother, a grieving woman who had been driven into madness by her son's death in Italy. Grandma never left her bedroom. She had a younger woman who acted as companion and bartender. Tough work, we found out. When Grandma died we were surprised to find every drawer filled with empty Johnnie Walker Black scotch bottles. Must have been hundreds. Grandma had a string of liquor stores--about 5--who would deliver the goods and not suspect how much scotch she was consuming. Must have been good days at the Johnnie Walker Distillery.
My son's grandmother was also partial to scotch. She'd stand at the kitchen sink in her robe and stare out the window with a cigarette in one hand and a small Dixie cup of scotch in the other. Never saw her drink from it, never saw her over-loaded. But she kept my grandmother's flame burning. Also, tortured her daughter, my wife, in the same fashion my grandma tortured my mom. I wonder how many other women have retreated to their bedrooms or kitchen sinks across this wide world. Grieving the loss of some beautiful boy killed in one of the countless wars we worship so profoundly. Cheers.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know what to write. I have read your blog and am moved. I just can't decide in what direction. Is the truth in the fiction, or the other way round? I think I shall knit in response, I shall have to figure out what...