I was half wrong about this hurricane season. The World Meteorological Association has a six-year cycle for storm names and this year’s fourth and fifth Atlantic storms were named Don and Emily — my parents’ names. I predicted Don would be an easy-peasy storm, but that Emily would wreak havoc. Both storms, however, blew through without major intensity.
So I am reaching back in time to a poem I wrote in 2003 about my mother. I hope you enjoy it.
An only child grows up a loner, with too much time to think —
to ponder the meaning of this and that or the intent of something else.
The hurts piled on by an angry and disappointed mother
become hills and crags to overcome, and darkness to fear.
My mother died a year ago; she is at rest at last.
Daily I think of her and my struggle against her demands:
expectations of beauty, motherhood and such I could never meet.
The near half-century struggle between two stubborn women.
But time has a way of making it easier
to forget the sharpness of pain taken or given.
Just as new mountains protrude from the earth,
pushing up sharply here and there, destroying sparks of life,
the pointed words of my mother criticizing me —
my looks, my friends, my life choices —
scarred me and caused self doubt and resentment,
leading me to wonder why I was so flawed.
And yet, and yet, I think of the Appalachians.
These once strong, sharp mountains now worn with time,
rounded by years, by mankind, by nature
now give off a benign air and send out an invitation
to ramble up and down old paths, to explore their beauty,
and to give time to reflect on good not bad,
remembering past seasons each with its own disappointments,
inevitably leading into hope for the next.
Grieving over the death of my beloved dog Cheddar
I hiked the A.T. of North Georgia often.
Tromping up steep paths, scuffling feet through leaves,
processing my loss through changing seasons.
Twelve years later what is most dear to me
are memories of great dog-walks and amusing play,
and how it felt to stroke my dog’s ears and belly.
Oh, the remembrances of good times long gone!
So it will be with my mother.
There were good times; sometimes she gave good counsel.
I recall occasions when my heart filled with gratitude
for her understanding and solicitude.
Even while my mother shrank before me,
her body losing its battles, eroding like limestone,
I began to soften my life-long view, and
saw a woman of principle, intelligent and proud.
Good memories push up, joining with the sad.
In just a year I feel my anger erode further away
as I recognize more and more the basis for her desire
to have me be something I never was.
My mother only wanted what was best for me,
albeit according to her world, not mine.