Mom, I still miss you.
Twenty-three years later I still do. I miss your laugh that started low and built up into something loud, contagious and hard to ignore, especially in public, your ranting about how Reagan ruined the country, about the growing, callous disregard for the working poor which I’m sad to say continues, and the goofy way you danced at Grateful Dead concerts embarrassing us. I miss your talks about migrant workers needing help with pesticide and herbicide poisoning, education for their kids and access to basic hygiene. I miss your anger about Native Americans and genocide, rich hippies and hypocrisy, gender discrimination and radical feminism. I miss the wistful way you talked about a man who asked you to marry him in an Iowa cornfield and then died in a river in Vermont. I miss your huge, impossible lists for the book mobile, and your huge, impossible lists of great books we had to read. I miss your analysis of the failed promises of the 1960’s and the social change you were still waiting on. I miss your loneliness over friends you thought you had who weren’t there for you. I miss how you tried to insist we all learn Spanish because One Hundred Years of Solitude was so much better in that language. Two of the three of us did and I wish I had. I miss your self-righteousness about eating organic food and supporting organic restaurants and farms, your love of the Mother Goddess and your confirmed suspicions about hypocritical self-declared, California gurus who were really just sexist egomaniacs. I miss the way you buried money in mason jars and and then forgot where you buried them and how you cooked pinto beans in the cast iron Dutch Oven on the roof of the station wagon in Baja because it was that hot. I miss the way I caught you looking at me once, when we camped with Katie in the desert under huge palm trees near the only water for miles but not too close, because you wanted to make sure the desert animals had comfortable access to it. In your look I could see, and I knew how much, you loved the three of us and how deeply you felt you failed us. I miss the “No Bozos Allowed” bumper sticker on the Buick station wagon, the affirmations and Zen chants and prosperity thinking. I miss the beautiful clothes you sewed from seconds at LL Bean woolen mills, the faith you had in us and the impossible demands you made that tested the faith we had in you. I miss your sense of adventure and the way you started surfing in your 50’s when the cancer went into remission. And I miss your notebooks filled with long lists of people you needed to forgive for firing you, humiliating you, rejecting you, hurting you, especially the ones who fell out of your life once you had cancer. And on those lists was even your father, for shooting your half coyote puppy when you were a tiny girl and for what he did to you and later, to us. And how you never allowed him to see us again, until almost 20 years later at Mike’s wedding when we were grown up. I miss the way you said, matter-of-factly, “If I don’t forgive them, who will?”
I miss it all, even the shit storms of unmedicated manic insanity and the inevitable crashes into debilitating months-long depression, because if I didn’t have those parts of you too, I didn’t have all of you, and it was worth it to have all of you. I wish I had made that more clear to you.
Mama, todavia te extrano. Viente tres anos. A blink of an eye. I’d like you to know I’m working on forgiving everyone for everything too. Once in a while, sometimes for just a moment, it feels as though I even have.