A letter to Mom
It was your eyes, blue-green and wise for their age, which first looked into mine. What did you see in there? What does any mother see when she looks into the eyes of a character whose role in the story has not yet been written? Your eyes, although 40 years younger then, were accomplished and clever, having peered into the eyes of the dying without fear, and into the newly born without judgment. Perhaps you see something familiar in both?
I sit here today, technically a man, many years removed from the infant in your arms, who was breathing-in the invisible molecules of our atmosphere for the very first time. Although a four-decade chunk of time separates me from that moment, I am doing my best to picture those eyes of yours. My imagination is always busy, but it is not particularly visually adept. I can’t actually picture your eyes on my own; I need visual aid for the finer details. Looking at a photo of you however, I can take that image back in time. I can imagine a tiny version of myself, endlessly comforted, finally matching a face to the voice which had been singing and speaking above and around me as I grew like an angry watermelon in your belly.
I picture your eyes, filled with tears of relief from the strain and pain of child birth, mixed with the joy of having created yet another human life; doing your part to slowly replace the ones ceaselessly floating off the field of play. Those eyes, peering into mine for the first time, I visualize like the pressing of a button which set a machine into motion. The mechanism activated by your gaze was not the physical apparatus which is now clumsily typing these words, but an ethereal device with the capacity to detect at least a little love in just about everything it can view. My siblings have their own instruments of disposition, gifted to them by your gaze, each of us boundlessly fortunate to have had our engines tuned up for the first time by such a force.
Jeannine Gaudet -
A mother of six, a grandmother of nine, a nurse for over 50 years, a social worker, solo hiker of the El Camino De Santiago, a musician, a woman of great faith, a devoted wife and an objectively kind human being.
I don’t need to use my imagination to remember the comfort of your voice or your presence in my life. I can conjure and reconstruct the great consolation I took from you with memories of sadness, stomach aches, broken bones, disappointments and fears. Even now, as a somewhat cynical adult, when I feel pain or discomfort, I think of you and your loving company…and even though you are still living, I miss it.
As a child, when I would visit my father, I would miss my own room and the freedom I felt there; a freedom I felt and understood because you encouraged it. His home was not mine, and with him I felt nervous, carrying with me a sense of being a bothersome and unwelcome person. I remember feeling ill on a number of occasions while at his house, and would wish you were there to help me. I still have that feeling from time to time.
I addition to nurturing my very nature, you also gave me music. I remember feeling powerful emotion the first time I truly “heard” you playing piano at home. Somber church music swept over me, and enveloped my imaginary landscape like a soundtrack. Your singing, the first I ever heard, born of a soft and high voice, would glide through and around the toned-down chords and melodies like a moth navigating the leaves of an oak tree. I still love to hear a woman singing, and always associate it with you. For this, I am especially grateful.
Diverting attention backwards in time is an endeavor which gives and takes. I feel like my positive and loving memories outweigh the negative and cruel. Although, I shudder to think of my own inattentiveness, moments of unthinking and unkind words or actions directed towards you. Thanks to your patience and acceptance of me, I put a tremendous value on the fair and kind treatment of others. I only hope you have felt more of this from me than any expressions of impatience, intolerance or judgment.
My memory shines a phantasmagorical and erratic light on so many things from a past I often struggle to reconstruct. Some moments are more real to me, however. I can remember your perfume, I can recall when you quit smoking, when you married my stepfather, when my little sisters were born, the heartbreak in your voice when your twin brother died, the heartbreak dealt to you by each of your children in various ways (including me), the way you cherished your own mother, caring for her until her last breath, and the way you view her death and the many others you have helped make more peaceful (family and strangers alike). These memories serve as way-finders for me in an inland sea of self-doubt and uncertainty. When I feel lost or confused by what bits of my story I can elicit from my brain, moments in which you were the star are concrete and tangible.
Your energy and your enthusiasm are inspirational. Your encouragement, your honesty, your work ethic, and your commitment to your vocation have been invaluable influences on me. Your easy expression of your own vulnerability gives me courage. Your ability to operate with faith in a loving God who cares for all beings, although somewhat perplexing to me, is something which I admire in the faithful, but particularly so in you, as you embody the message and treat others as you would have them treat you.
We are all imperfect beings, flawed, broken and in a state of nearly constant repair. The product of our environments, shaped by forces beyond our control, our personalities and subsequent destinies clash with the idea of free will in ways I haven’t the intelligence to understand. Mercifully, chance brought me into a home where I could be raised by someone like you.
The little man who you raised with equal parts care and trust is looking back in time at the young woman who brought him here. I can see both of us. If I could speak to those younger versions of us and be heard, I would say very little. Perhaps, a simple message; one for the present, one for the past and one for the future - “This is really happening, so be thankful for every yesterday, and don’t hold your breath for tomorrow…it’ll be here before you know it.
With a whisper in his little ear
And a kiss on a brand new cheek
A tiny creature
And a world of strangers
At long last