Thursday, March 21, 2013


I was unaware, but the clinic here in Central has been in the process of moving to a new location for about a week now. I had a post planned about something entirely different today, but I'm going to be selfish. You may recall that the clinic was once my mom's house. Not the place I grew up, but the place where I went from childhood into manhood, which probably took longer than she would have liked.

During the move, things have been disturbed that were left untouched after her death a few years ago. Most of the stuff that she wouldn't have cared much about like her bed and tables and clothe were moved or used for other things. The deeply personal items got put in storage until I could go through them. Which I did. But apparently I missed a small jewelry box, an old thing she got from my grandmother.

Inside was a sealed envelope addressed to me. It was in her handwriting. An artifact from her, a sort of time capsule. Mom had a habit of writing me letters over the years. I've found more than one since her death, old things that she wrote when I was growing up. But this was new. Or as new as I am ever going to get.

I won't reproduce it here, not in whole. Partly because the thing is deeply personal--on her part and mine, though for my own sake I obviously don't mind airing personal things--and partly because I know it would have embarrassed her for me to do so. The letter was clearly written after The Fall, and it was long. Very, very long. Six front and back pages.

In it she expressed her worries for the future. She wrote about how happy she was that some people had survived. She covered an amazing variety of topics close to her heart, and the letter was written to me in the forthright manner that defined our unique relationship. Mom could always talk to me about literally anything, and vice versa. It was strange and uplifting and it broke my heart.

She wrote the letter a few weeks before her death. The closing lines were what struck me so deeply. Not because they were the most important to me, necessarily, but because she chose to end the letter with them. Her last word to me, the concept she wanted to leave in my head as I finished reading, says more about her than I can explain with an entire language at my disposal.

They were:

Remember that I am proud of you. Remember that you are loved. One of those things is not optional, and you earned the other.

That was actually a reference to a long-running philosophical debate between the two of us; that we tend to love our families unconditionally, but whether it's a conflict to dislike them as people or hold them in contempt while still loving them. I argued that there was no conflict, and her view wasn't too far from my own. Mostly we quibbled on details, but eventually she admitted that she agreed with me.

Those few lines said volumes to me. She loved me, which I knew and still take immense comfort in. But beyond that, she felt genuine pride in me. Pride I had earned in her eyes, not a granted status because I was her son. She was telling me that in the final equation, I was a net positive.

Might not mean much to other people, but it hit me hard. My morning has been shot to hell as I read and reread the letter. I didn't eat any lunch. I'm swimming in memories both good and bad of one of the greatest people I've ever known. Maybe it's stupidly selfish and irritating, but today I just needed to talk about it. I miss her, and while she would have said that memorializing her this way would be a waste of time, she would have wildly encouraged me to do so for other people. Because she was a hypocrite that way; she saw herself as nothing special.

She was wrong.

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