Late Valentine

“Sagittarian Jakob Dylan has created a solid musical career for himself. He’s a bit defensive, however, about the possibility that the fame of his father, Bob Dylan, has played a role in his success. His contracts specify that he should never be called “Bob Dylan’s son.” I understand his longing to have his work be judged on its own merits, and I sympathize with his urge to be independent of his heritage. But in the coming weeks, Sagittarius, I advise the opposite approach for you. You will place yourself in alignment with cosmic rhythms by expansively acknowledging all of the influences that helped you become the person you want to be.”

-Rob Brezsny

Free Will Astrology

Free Will Astrology. It’s my required reading in the Hartford Advocate every week. Never miss it. It’s also the only horoscope I read, not just for the forecast, but for Rob’s quirky goodness and free associations. Damned if he isn’t usually right, too.

Thing is, I’ve been thinking of stuff like this a lot, recently. Specifically, I’ve been musing on my mother, Roz. Dear Mom. I’ve kind of come to see her as a sort of peer in my later years, something I’d never imagined when I was a angry  young thing.

I’d always emulated and near worshiped my late father. If I’d wanted to be anything, it was him: Calm. Measured. Logical. Tres intelligent. Except for a quiet demeanor and shy nature, we couldn’t be more unalike. It took me a very long time to figure that out. He knew, though. As much as I tried to fit into this ideal, I just couldn’t cut it. It was too easy to be as willful as my ego demanded instead of the team player he was.  My creative side mystified him and his nicknames, often uttered in patronizing, mocking tones,  for me were —The Artiste, and when he was really frustrated, “la Actrice” (that would be actress).  They were pretty much spot on labels, then.

We all still talk about my father, almost thirty years later. Who’s the most like him? Wouldn’t he just love his grandchildren? (Absolutely). Were we really going to move to….Florida….before he died? He is an elevated and very much missed figure in our clan. Poor mom never had a chance, unless she’d gone first, and only maybe. But none of us really wanted to cop to any of her qualities, anyhow. So flighty. Erratic. Exasperating.

I’ve come to realize that actually, I really am alot  like Roz though. I’d give the shirt and more off of my back for anyone I loved. And I,  too, never met an auction or tag sale I could resist. Or an animal in need.

How did this reckoning happen? At first, because I’d become a mother myself. Don’t most daughters nudge back into the maternal fold that way? But largely, it’s been through my experience with attention deficit disorder and its maddening travails and daily frustrations, that I can relate to what Being Roz, with everything that comes with that, is. “You must get that from me”, Roz offered, when I told her the news.  I’d have to agree.

Roz is an almost ceaseless screwball comedy. That is, when she isn’t enduring the untimely heartbreaks of losing the father to her children  and a daughter much too soon. Or raising six children on her own at age 33, one of which had special needs.  She’s even named for an actress known for screwball humor. I always think of Lucille Ball when I think of her though. Despite of all evidence to the contrary, I believe my mother is really a redhead. Except that she hates red hair. On a good day, Roz could probably trump anything Lucy did  in spades without even breaking a sweat.  

There really is a reason, and somewhere, a rhyme, in whatever madcap episode of Being Roz constitutes, but it’s not always easily recognized, or accepted. She’s always late. Always. Missed her own daughter’s wedding and couldn’t show up until the reception. Actually, that wasn’t entirely her fault though. But everyone knows to invite her extra early in order that she might just get to wherever she’s going on time. Usually, she doesn’t.

I’d wondered often just what my father saw in Roz, whom he met on the job at Sunoco. My mom walked home from her job at the hospital, but everyday, she’d stop in for chips and a Coke. He must of loved her rotten, for  Roz was an event. Roz  once smashed a car into a McDonald’s in driver ed. Roz had a wicked temper. The little hot head once took a hammer to the most recent addition to my father’s snowmobile collection in the early, hardscrabble, impoverished years of their marriage. She then hotfooted it down the street to her parent’s house, with my father in furious pursuit. “Are you coming back?”, he’d asked, finally. “Are you still mad?”, countered Roz. I guess he wasn’t anymore. Roz would lock him out of the trailer if he came home late (he’d just unscrew the doors and giggle the whole time), and once bombarded him with mustard in the middle of a fight. Dad reciprocated, and the pair  ended up covered in  tangy, sunshiney globs of day-glo yellow. Right before some colleagues from the hospital  showed up. I’d  never do anything like that. Ketchup bottles are so much easier to squeeze. I don’t think they had those back in the day though. Roz made do.

We never really got along much when I was growing up. I was more than a little scared of that temper. And she confused me. Alot. Still, I’d stick up for her in fights, and let her in through the window once in the early hours of the morning when my father forbade her to go to some country concert at the county fair.

I gave it to her hard in my adolescent years, and made her cry more than once. She really tried at times. Like the time she offered to take me out to dinner after I was to accept a medal at some art show…which was right after I was supposed to meet  the bishop for a pre-confirmation thing that she practically had to bribe me to do. (Confirmation is a Catholic coming of age rite to all of you incredibly fortunate non-Catholics. It’s sort of like…marrying the faith. “Do you take this faith  sham to be….I do! I do!” Or coming out. Except the shame never quite goes away. At least that’s how it seemed to me at the time. Anyone who knows me well would get why this was such an issue trauma for me.)  How did I respond? By getting as drunk as a top at a secret celebration of my own with friends the night before.

“You are going. You are especially meeting the bishop for this, little girl! I don’t care if you have a fathead! That’s what you get for drinking!,” roared old Roz.

“I did NOT! I’m actually sick! I can’t believe you’re doing this to me! I need ginger ale! I need crackers!”, I’d wailed.

I got the ginger ale and crackers. And eventually, my medal. Roz eventually got her  freaking confirmation sacrament ceremony, but not without some heavy duty balking and sulking, and a wad of cold hard cash. I needed those drinks. And I’m still not one bit sorry for imbibing practially every weekend in high school. I figured if I kept strict observance of The Cardinal Rule, which would be no association with the opposite sex (which is not an easy feat when you’re drunk—but I accomplished it) while under her roof  (Unless it was M. Pierce, who’d graduated first in my class and liked me. I was lukewarm to him. Roz still talks about him.)—then,  she could put up with my chosen  indulgence, especially if she didn’t know about it most of the time.

She’d give me and everybody else hell at the dinner table. I’d respond by flipping  my paper plate and its contents over and storming upstairs to my headquarters. She never made me clean it up. The kiddo surely would, if she ever pulled something like that.

Roz understood things though. She always stuck up for me in my running spats with teachers. She’d let me stay home from school whenever I wanted, as long I actually stayed home. She kind of mostly understood my absolute need to create art, even if it meant plaster and india ink all over the bed quilts, the curtains, and the shag rug. And surely Roz might understand (if she ever found out) vengeance in the name of loyalty to a pal; the kind of teenaged drunken caper in which freshly caught frogs are stuffed into the car of some  redkneck cur who’d foolishly betrayed a friend of mine. Hell, Roz might’ve actually  jumped right into the pond and probably capture the frogs herself!  I just held the bag. Most recently, she understood and never questioned the empathy and compassion  I’d felt for someone  too long in a relationship that was unhealthy. Never questioned me or made me feel bad about it, but when I finally got myself out, she was also behind me all the way, and my most sympathetic and reliable ear.

She hurt me in ways that I won’t  reveal on a public blog, and in which no doubt obstructed a fully realized relationship until well into my adult years. But underneath it all, and without condoning it, I recognize that wasn’t who mother really was. I know her now. I know and understand  now, thanks to my diagnosis, what it is to be inconsistent, confused, and impossibly, helplessly, overwhelmed on a daily basis, as she was then. I know I loved her then, and longed for her, always.

Kathryn Harrison says:

“We’re taught to expect unconditional love from our parents, but I think it is more the gift our children give us. It’s they who love us helplessly, no matter what or who we are.”



5 Responses to “Late Valentine”

  1. 1 fee March 6, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    this is a lovely post. i was telling my mom recently how well-written your blog was. (i would send her the link, but eh she’s so nosey she’d just ask you a million questions! hehe.)
    i’ll email you regarding our new blog..yay. i think it will be fun and helpful and lots of good positive things. 🙂

  2. 2 petitmuse March 6, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    thanks, fee.

    you know i *heart* judy! she’s welcome.

  3. 3 petitmuse March 6, 2009 at 10:20 pm


    you know, i still can’t see the words unconditional love without remembering crazy spoiled brat “eyra”, don’t you?

  4. 4 fee March 10, 2009 at 12:37 am

    of course i can’t. you know i just told that story about her a few weeks ago…i’ll have to find my pics from that era and post one or two for you. i think i actually have a picture of the note she scrawled on the wall…priceless.

  5. 5 petitmuse March 11, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    you surely must have one of her eating her beans from a pan with a big spoon, right?

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