Thursday, May 17, 2012

A little past Mother's Day, I read my friend's blog, a meditation on the very recent loss of her mother. She is thinking about her mother and femininity, and the objects and relations that constitute femininity, and the ways in which those objects help us negotiate the world. And now she has lost her first object, her mother, who was also a relationship, as well as a negotiator of relationships. A loss like this shifts everything.

Losing a parent forever changes your relationship to the world, and not just because you miss them, but because they loved you. Or at least, for those of us lucky enough to have a parent raise us, they made you need their love and conform yourself in ways that helped you get it, and when you had to rebel, they made you risk not having their love, because at some point you needed even more to be your own creature. Without them, there is no one to push against in the same way. Their death makes you feel unknown.

I lost my mother before I was 40, and in many ways, I am glad she can't see me now. At the same time, I wish she had stayed alive to see the things she wanted to have happen and never got to see because she left the party too early: her children--"even" the gay ones--married, her grandchildren born and growing, the opportunity to travel, Skype and Facetime to overcome distance, a Democrat in the White House again. Mostly, of course, I miss her for selfish reasons, because her presence in the world meant she was watching me, as she had always watched me, and because if she was watching me I must exist, and would continue to exist, but not alone.

Without her, the world offers its claw as a handshake hastily withdrawn. Where I work, children lose their parents every day because of rage, drugs, and sorrow. I think about the unseen children in the city. I think about my friend's blog, where she is thinking about seeing her mother now with a fixed gaze, where her negotiation of being seen in the present has ended (though not of having been seen). And I think about the game my daughter and her other mother like to play, where they each gradually move their foreheads together, looking intently at each other and laughing as the vision of each blurs the closer they get. "One eye," they say at the same time, their foreheads touching.

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