My mother isn’t actually dead, but she’s not the person she used to be. Alzheimer’s has slowly eaten away at her brain for the last ten years, so now her mind is like that of an infant. As my Soul Collage card for Mom shows, ours was often a strained and difficult relationship, though we had some fun times too. I admired her for her independence, strength, resilience, humor and “joie de vive”.
My relationship with my father was better, despite him being married to another woman other than my mother and how he abandoned me after I graduated from collage. He looked after me after school when I was younger, helped me do my homework, read with me, taught me how to ride a bike and swing a bat. He taught me a love for science and logic, as well as for keeping an open mind about hidden creatures and paranormal phenomena. He gave me my allowance and bought me ice cream when I got good grades. He shared with me the poetry he wrote about fallen comrades in WWII. When he left, he gave me the items he’d kept in a safe deposit box while I was growing up, including a little poem he wrote about me as a small child.
I put a cup of coffee with lots of sugar and milk in it on my ancestor altar for him today. Next to that I put 3 butterscotch candies. He liked coffee candy too. Maybe because he grew up during the Great Depression, he learned to add as much cream and sugar into his coffee as he could? He had a harder childhood than my mother did, but she also had her share of hardships. He was named after an earlier sibling who had died in infancy. He always hated that, because he felt like the “ghost” of that other child made it hard for him to be his own person when he was young. He used to do his homework in the local pool hall, because there was too much yelling and noise at home. He hung out at the local brothel and was sent to buy little necessities for the prostitutes, because they weren’t allowed on the proper side of town. He probably left home pretty young to make his way in the world. He never said much about his father, who I gather wasn’t very nice, but he loved his mother, who was probably kinder.
I used to have a few black and white pictures he gave me of himself as a baby, his mother, himself as a young man, and the house he was born in, but they were all lost when I became homeless last year. I have a few other pictures of him with me as a young child that I rescued from my mother’s house before the squatter took it over and changed the locks.
I have a picture of my sister and her boys on my altar. She has them to mourn her and think fondly of her. My father probably only has me.
I have a picture of my dear wolf-dog Tasha, my “fur-daughter”, who was the closest I’ll ever have to a child of my own.
These are the 3 passed-over relatives I think of most often, though I sometimes think of my mother’s aunts and parents too. Her mother died when I was a baby, so I only know her from the stories my mother told about her.
Once she sent my mother out to pick a bucket full of cherries for a pie. My Mom thought she couldn’t fill the whole bucket, so she put dirt in the bottom and cherries on top. When my grandmother dumped the bucket out into the sink, my mother ran, thinking she’d get in trouble. My grandmother just laughed though, realizing my mother hadn’t meant any harm. My mother said her mother often cried, so I suspect she suffered from depression. She said she was thankful for her wonderful children though, so I imagine she was a pretty good mother.
My mother and my sister took their middle names from my grandmother. When I was born, my mother gave me my sister’s name for my middle name. My grandmother complained that I should have been named after her too, because a child is supposed to be named after their grandparents, not after their siblings. My mother laughed and said, “You already have 2 named after you.” I’m glad I was named after my sister, but I used to think that if I ever had a daughter, I would name her after my grandmother to continue her remembrance.
On my mother’s side of the family, I’ve always felt like the “throw-away child”. My mother put my sister’s and brother’s names on our great family tree, but she never put mine on it. My mother used to tell me that she thought my father had a son by another woman, but he never spoke of any other children, so I think I was probably his only child and the end of his line.
I think he tries to look after me now, so I don’t feel quite so alone.