MY MOTHER GETS DRESSEDIt is impossible for my mother to do eventhe simplest things for herself anymoreso we do it together,get her dressed.I choose the clothes withoutzippers or buckles or straps,clothes that are simplebut elegant, and easy to get into.Otherwise, it's just like every other day.After bathing, getting dressed.The stockings go on first.This time, it's the new ones,the special ones with opaque black trianglesthat she's never worn before,bought just two weeks agoat her favorite department store.We start with the heavy, careful stuff of the right toesinto the stocking tipthen a smooth yank past the knob of her ankleand over her cool, smooth calfthen the other toecool ankle, smooth calfup the legsand the pantyhose is coaxed to her waist.You're doing great, Mom,I tell heras we ease her bodyagainst mine, rest her whole weight against meto slide her black dresswith the black empire collarover her headstruggle her fingers through the dark tunnel of the sleeve.I reach from the outsidedeep into the dark for her hand,grasp where I can't see for her touch.You've got to help me a little here, MomI tell herthen her fingertips touch mineand we work her fingers through the sleeve's mouthtogether, then we rest, her weight against mebefore threading the other fingers, wrist, forearm, elbow, bicepand now over the head.I gentle the black dress over her breasts,thighs, bring her makeup to her,put some color on her skin.Green for her eyes.Coral for her lips.I get her black hat.She's ready for her company.I tell the two women in simple, elegant suitswaiting outside the bedroom, come in.They tell me, She's beautiful.Yes, she is, I tell them.I leave as they carefullyzip her intothe black body bag.Three days later,I dream a large, greensuitcase arrives.When I unzip it,my mother is inside.Her dress matchesher eyeshadow, which matchesthe suitcaseperfectly. She's wearingcoral lipstick."I'm here," she says, smiling delightedly, wavingand I wake up.Four days later, she comes homein a plastic black boxthat is heavier than it looks.In the middle of a meadow,I learn a nakedmore than naked.I learn a new way to hugas I tighten my fistaround her body,my hand filled with her ashesand the small stones of bones.I squeeze her tightthen open my handand release herinto the smallest, hottest sun,a dandelion screaming yellow at the sky.
To join the company of women, to be adults, we go through a period of proudly boasting of having survived our own mother's indifference, anger, overpowering love, the burden of her pain, her tendency to drink or teetotal, her warmth or coldness, praise or criticism, sexual confusions or embarrassing clarity. It isn't enough that she sweat, labored, bore her daughters howling or under total anesthesia or both. No. She must be responsible for our psychic weaknesses the rest of her life. It is alright to feel kinship with your father, to forgive. We all know that. But your mother is held to a standard so exacting that it has no principles. She simply must be to blame.
One morning as I was leaving, the director said I didn't have to leave the set anymore. What happened? Why did they change their ways of treating me? I came to the realization that it was because I had a mother. My mother spoke highly of me, and to me. But more important, whether they met her or simply heard about her, she was there with me. She had my back, supported me. This is the role of the mother, and in that visit I really saw clearly, and for the first time, why a mother is really important. Not just because she feeds and also loves and cuddles and even mollycoddles a child, but because in an interesting and maybe an eerie and unworldly way, she stands in the gap. She stands between the unknown and the known. In Stockholm, my mother shed her protective love down around me and without knowing why people sensed that I had value.
love. she liberated me to life, she continued to do that. and when she was in her final sickness i went out to san francisco and the doctor said she had 3 weeks to live, i asked her "would you come to north carolina?" she said yes. she had emphysema and lung cancer, i brought her to my home. she lived for a year and a half ..and when she was finally in extraneous she was on oxygen and fighting cancer for her life and i remembered her liberating me, and i said i hoped i would be able to liberate her, she deserved that from me. she deserved a great daughter and she got one. so in her last days, i said "i understand some people need permission to go… as i understand it you may have done what god put you here to do. you were a great worker, you must've been a great lover cause a lot of men and if I'm not wrong maybe a couple of woman risked their lives to love you. you were a piss poor mother of small children but a you were great mother of young adults, and if you need permission to go, i liberate you". and i went back to my house, and something said go back- i was in my pajamas, i jumped in my car and ran and the nurse said "she just gone". you see love liberates. it doesn't bind, love says i love you. i love you if you're in china, i love you if you're across town, i love you if you're in harlem, i love you. i would like to be near you, i would like to have your arms around me i would like to have your voice in my ear but thats not possible now, i love you so go. love liberates it doesn't hold. thats ego. love liberates.