Oh wow. What to say about Ruth Margalit’s “The Unmothered” over at the New Yorker.
About two weeks after her death, I wrote in my diary: “The finality of it. When she was sick, at least things kept changing. She felt better, or worse. It was a good time to talk, or it wasn’t. Things happened. Now nothing is happening. This is it.”
A year later, my diary reads: “Hardest thing: overhearing colleagues tell their mothers ‘Love you’ on the phone. So casually.”
Aaaaand just when I thought I was done with Mother’s Day. Heh. Kidding of course — I always read things like this, because every time I do it makes me feel like 1) I’m not alone and 2) I am doing a shit job at writing about my mother, considering. Heh.
Some nights I wonder if my mother and I would have had this Call in the middle of the fucking night kind of relationship — one where I could just pop in and call around midnight just to tell her what I’d been doing at the paper for the past twelve hours. Maybe it would matter to her as much as it does to me? Maybe we’ll be angry at the same things together? Idk. Not that I have a shortage of people with whom I could be angry about the same things, but you know. Whatever.
In my journal from that period, instead of writing how I felt, I sought out and copied everything that seemed to express what to me was inexpressible. From Proust, I took: “For henceforth you will always keep something broken about you.” From C. S. Lewis: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.” From Joan Didion: “A single person is missing for you, and the whole world is empty.” From O’Rourke: “Am I really she who has woken up again without a mother? Yes, I am.” From a short story by Alice Munro: “What he carried with him, all he carried with him, was a lack, something like a lack of air, of proper behavior in his lungs, a difficulty that he supposed would go on forever.” From one by David Long: “Eventually, a truck would come rattling down… a car door would chuff, and the world would go on—not where it had left off but on the other side of this nothing time. And when it did, though she couldn’t quite see it yet, [she] would begin the never-ending task of not forgetting her mother.”
Guess what I am doing right now.