Missing My Late Mom: No Pedestal, All Reality
It recently was my late mother’s birthday and I am just missing her a lot lately. She passed away more than a decade ago but sometimes it feels very recent. I feel lonely sometimes without her. I never feel lonely either. I love being an introvert. I go harder than Brooklyn with my INTJ-ness. But I still feel the sense of loneliness that comes from loss itself, which is very different from how loneliness is regularly described, usually connected to lack of a romantic or romantic sexual relationship, for example, a kind of loneliness I am not experiencing.
Neither of my grandmothers are alive and when they were, I didn’t have deep relationships with them. One didn’t even live in the States. I am not overly close with any of my aunts either because of some complicated issues between them and my late mother or because I just didn’t see them often as a child. So while I have epic Black women as sisters (one of which I am very close to), Black women friends (and I have an amazing best friend) and peers offline and online, as well as younger Black women who look up to me, I don’t really have close older Black women in my life to look up to on an intimate level, and not as a “role model” as I’m 34 and grown and don’t need that, but as someone older and more experienced in life just to talk to. I don’t mean the older Black women geniuses like Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins and Sonia Sanchez etc. who have that sense of age and wisdom and depth that paves a way for me. I mean someone where if I lose connection to the internet, I can talk to from a perspective of experience greater than mine in my offline life. I have an older sister, but she’s only 5 years older than I am. I definitely feel like there’s a lack there by not having too many close older Black women in my life. It’s probably why I’ve run into random older Black women that I’ve talked to for hours on end, or had an older Black woman neighbor I used to drive to church or just have random conversations with older Black women when I used to work for a Medicare Advantage plan during my past corporate days.
I miss my mom’s laughter. I have VHS tapes with her voice and image on them that I need the files to be transferred from. I want that forever. (I was in media productions in high school and used to borrow a camcorder for the weekend and make home videos whenever I wasn’t using VHS tapes to record shows.) I miss her overly animated stories that I still remember and crack jokes about. Her little statements that I insert into conversations with two of my sisters. The way her hands looked. I’ve seen Jamaican women with similar hands to my mother’s and I just stop and look at them. I hope they don’t think I am weird for doing that. I miss her cooking. Her pride in my academic achievements. I miss her talents. She could sew anything and made everything from gorgeous curtains to my high school prom dress. I miss watching award shows with her; I thought of her as I gazed at the beautiful Oscar gowns this season because we used to watch together and talk about them.
I wonder what my mom would’ve thought about me becoming a photographer? She was a visual artist herself. Or finishing my Master’s degree? She died only a month after I finished my bachelor’s degree and was thrilled about that. Would she be bothered by me not being a wife or mother? I think the answer is no since she wanted me to have choices and told me that before she passed away actually. (Plus my older sister had already given her grandchildren.) While I was in college we would spend hours on the phone, just hours. I worked for a wireless company and had unlimited minutes and my bills would easily crack 2,000-3,000 minutes used a month. How would she feel about the fact that I got to travel outside of the U.S.? Would she like my extreme haircuts over the years? I wonder if she would like Gradient Lair?
Would she be proud of me even as much of our views would converge and diverge? I hope so.
I’m not a theist and I no longer share the beliefs that she had before she passed. However, sometimes I do like to think that the energy that made her body, that which cannot be destroyed, still exists and surrounds me sometimes. I don’t think about her in an extended church service in the sky praising a White male deity; nah. That’s the “heaven” that I was taught about as a child in churches. But I guess my afrofuturistic tendencies means that I do wonder about future lives, alternate lives and other lives but not necessarily at the hands of a deity. I wonder all types of things simply because knowing I’m here and she’s not is difficult to bear. Thus, I understand why some cling to the notion of a place and future where Black people are not oppressed and have a longer time in freedom there than in oppression while on Earth. Whether that future is theistic or sci-fi or intellectually existential or whatever, I get it. I understand. Because for me this need for an oppression-less future is separate from oppression such as White supremacy existing via institutions and the State, whether secular or theistic, as it easily exists via both.
She wasn’t perfect and many of her imperfections are ones that used to be hard to confront because of how parents—and mothers in particular—are placed on a pedestal. But that pedestal dehumanizes and Black mothers already face so much dehumanization through both deification and oppression. Learning to accept her for what she was while I had her is what makes me choose to remember both the difficult lessons she taught me and the love she gave me as one total experience. I remember her telling me in phone calls about depression from the stress of poverty, struggles with perceptions about her weight and sadness about the abuse within the Church that she experienced (and I experienced) though she remained theist (and I am not, though for me leaving Church versus leaving theism itself were different experiences). I easily remember times that I was angry with her and she with me throughout my teens especially and including for a few weeks before she died. I still have guilt about that. However, only 3 days before she died, we made up via phone and she even said she was going to write me a letter, though she never got to do so. I’m still glad that our last phone call ever ended in love.
So I choose the complexity over the pedestal. It makes me feel happy and true. It makes me feel okay. I still hurt. Always. But I am happy too, remembering her.