"A MOM'S DEMENTIA" (Part 14 of 21)

Mom's entire life had been spent in the pursuit of unattainable daydreams: her bohemian 1960s, hedonistic ‘70s and oscillatory ‘80s, her sexual forays, substance abuse, her delusions of grandeur spanning nearly every wayward notion preoccupying her time. The reality, simply put: she was not some superstar, as she believed was her sovereign destiny, but rather, simply a survivor.

And, more than deny any such a statement, she would probably have agreed.

Whereas a few years prior to grandpa's death she weathered Gary's leaving her for another woman with what I can only describe as ‘exceptional adequacy', in hindsight, grandpa's death was equally, if not much more a significant catalyst in mom's psychological surrender.

Shortly after becoming homeless, the topic of Gary surfaced in our conversation. She uttered: "men are transient...Just like me now," and with that said her sobbing ceased. As an adult myself, I then watched mom systematically construct her own candid and lonely existence. Curiously, the farther into memory my grandfather's death retreated, the stronger and more intense my mother's grieving became. Years later it was as though he had died only yesterday. Was I callused for placing grandpa's death behind me, or had she obsessed and become consumed by it?

Maybe we both were wrong, perhaps neither of us was right; I just don't know.

One man's lunatic is another person's savior.

As she navigated across that slippery slope, somewhere halfway between madness and desperation in her own grieving, she maintained a stranglehold upon faith. Conversely, I distanced myself from faith, instead seeking transient comforts like sex and cigarettes and booze. Yeah, ‘love' had become just another four-letter-word, as equally offensive as any profane utterance of the common four-lettered variety.

Ironic that after he died, my mother and I retreated in completely opposite directions to cope with Grandpa's passing; she ran to faith and I ran away from it. Two separate pursuits resulting in the same conclusion: Isolation.

On my last visit to what was a once rather acceptable apartment in which I invested most of my pubescence, I returned some four or five years later; the married father of one, intrigued to finally present an infant son to his grandmother. However, I was completely unprepared for the condition into which mom had allowed that apartment to erode.

Her eventual eviction was not unexpected; I simply chose not to hear what she'd been rambling on about for all the years I'd been away. Hearing is easy, yet, listening is early youth's acquired art, all too often resigned as maturity sets in.

By the time the slumlord finally said, "get out!" she was nearly two full years in arrears. In addition to her delinquent rent, the apartment had been completely decimated from neglect; thus deserving of the term ‘ghetto living.' After Gary left, and after I set off to marry a wife and ‘save the world,' in the military, mom was alone with her cats and her Christ. Anything remaining simply did not take much precedence.


I was disgusted.

Mom's cats had multiplied exponentially, defecating where they pleased. The ceiling, which once managed a small leak isolated above the washroom sink, had rotted away throughout most of the flat. I remember being surprised that the upstairs tenants had not come crashing through. With the electricity nixed several months previously, light radiated only from haphazardly strewn candles and a dull afternoon haze signifying that outside of mom's newspaper-covered-up windows, somewhere shined a sun and somewhere a true alternate universe existed. The refrigerator, useless without power, was being used to store dirty plates, trash, cat food and a few bags of forgotten recyclables. The stench of urine, feces, mold or rotting food, possibly all, was prominent, and completely freaked me out.

My final visit lasted a mere ten minutes, if even that. With my infant son in a chest harness against me, I retreated immediately through the very door behind which I had sought so much comfort, albeit fragile, throughout my rearing. Clenching my artfully beautiful son, I'd concluded abruptly, that I hadn't any past worthy of resurrection, that Teagan solely was my future, that my father was a stranger, that my mother was insane, and that I was essentially alone.

The others? Aside for Teagan, there were none; all else were pretty much expendable.

I wanted to be away from that place, away even from her as well, quickly. As I strode at a more than brisk pace, I could hear my mother's voice calling to me to come back, that I'd been away far too long, that she wanted to see her new grandson. The more she called out the faster my gait became, until I realized that I was nearly running full sprint, infant in my arms. About halfway back to the train station, I no longer could hear her voice calling out to me. But then again, yeah, hearing is easy...Listening is early youth's acquired art, all too often resigned as maturity sets in.

I stopped, and looked at my son. Teagan was wide-awake, staring attentively at me, as though he were a spectator in an audience watching some performance unfold. Someday, would the son I loved so much abandon me too; just as abandonment issues had encapsulated my father, just as I was now abandoning my mother? Gazing at my son, and then back down the path from which I'd just retreated, and then back and forth again, I briefly considered going back to complete the visit upon which I'd embarked. I couldn't. I choose to stop running and instead continued my walk at a leisurely stride back to the train station. Ten minutes later, I heard my name called repeatedly, from a desperate old woman, unkempt and in disarray, running a short distance behind me.

Mom and I conversed at the quaint train depot for a long time, where a great many ethereal topics were breached and revisited. We both spoke airily; her aware that Teagan and I would soon be boarding a train, and I aware that, like a safety net, my escape route was already plotted, down the tracks and away to forever.

Several concerns had been massaged throughout our dialogue, except for the obvious: the disgusting, almost unholy living conditions, which she'd permitted herself to concede as in someway acceptable. We both sensed the uneasiness and the embarrassment brewing within me. The more we avoided the subject the more awkward and ridiculous our avoidance of it became.

"Does his mother breast feed?" She quizzed, lightly, forcing conversation.

"No. She does not." I replied flatly.

"Are you sure that is wise?" She pressed.

I paused. The contempt that I'd been suppressing finally boiled to vanishing point.

"Gee, mom," The words burned my lips as thought I'd spoken through a mouth full of bleach. "Do you think it's wise to live in a fucking slum with cat shit ground into the carpets and the upstairs neighbor's toilet water seeping through a rotted ceiling?!"

Suddenly, I hated my mother; not for anything she had done, but moreso for what she had allowed herself to embrace as acceptable. I rose and in doing so, exploded:

"What was all of that, anyway?!" I demanded. "What happened to you?! You live in a shithole, you look horrible and your clothes are rags! Are you on drugs or something?"

Without pause she plotted her response: "Are you on drugs or something; using such language while embracing your infant son?"

Mom looked as though she were about to vomit. Tears of acknowledged failure welled in her eyes. Tears of powerless guilt welled in mine as well. We both were weeping like lepers. Moments later we embraced, sobbing uncontrollably, with Teagan between us, against my chest.

"After dad died and Gary left and you left, I just gave up!" She howled.

"And grandma?" I added.

"Yeah, her too." She seethed disparagingly, pawing for excuses.

We were quiet for a short while. Teagan was a wide-eyed infant, never really before exposed to chaos, yet apparently intrigued by this new human emotion. I looked at Teagan and he was smiling back. He then looked to his grandmother, a frenzied, nervous, dirty wreck and innocently smiled again, uncaring and unaware of her social pariah status.

"Where did all of my yesterdays go?" Mom gazed at the ground. "I'm only 56."

She then gazed at the sky, and continued to do so. After several long, uninterrupted minutes the silence became uncomfortable to me. A light wind rustled the nearby trees, a nearby bird chirped freely, though not to me, and in the distance a commuter train moaned, up the approaching tracks. Mom sat transfixed, staring into the clouds, as though suddenly in a distant place, barely aware of my, or Teagan's, or anyone else's presence.

"Psalms Thirty-Four, Eighteen." She sighed airily, as though speaking to an audience far beyond the immediate and far greater than the infant child and thirty-something-year-old man seated less than two feet away.

"I just can't go on without him...I won't." she said sternly, eyes transfixed skyward, still.

I watched my mother and felt eerily alone; not even my son brought me comfort. She was in her head somewhere and I was on Earth, attempting to interpret her sudden departure from the reality, of which she was momentarily no apparent part.

She couldn't "go on without him"?

Did she mean Gary? Grandpa? Me? Teagan?


Eyeing the approaching train, we hugged and said good-bye. She acknowledged me with all of the animation of a medicated mental patient, entrapped conspicuously between delusion and grandeur, midway between commitment and resign.

Peering through rain droplets speckled across the train's window, I raised my hand to wave goodbye, but lowered it upon seeing that her transfixed gaze had not much shifted from her peering skyward. She was deep within her head, apparently at a place in which I could neither intrude, nor distract. As the train chugged slowly forward out of the station, mom gazed skyward mouthing what she'd uttered just minutes previously: "Psalms Thirty-Four, Eighteen."

Indeed, the Lord is close to those whose heart is breaking. However, sometimes, the ones who have it most together, are those appearing completely out of control.

/ / / / END OF PART FOURTEEN / / / /


© 2007 - R. MARTIN BASSO


Part 15 - I Had Finally Become A Monster

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