Friday, October 14, 2005
Have you actually met me before?
My mother made her weekly Thursday night call to see if I am still alive or have disappeared again. I don't know why she continues to do this, except that six years ago I left town and no one noticed for three months. Then again, it could be because she wants to make sure I don't know what is going on in the rest of my family by asking pointed questions or simply leaving pregnant pauses to see if I fill them indiscriminately in by telling her what I know. I gave that up a long time ago. I have found you learn more by listening than by talking.
Once again she mentioned my journals, writings I have kept in a myriad different plain bound and wire bound books of blank pages where I put down my thoughts, musings and feelings -- feelings no one in my family seemed over worried about or they would have asked. She went on and on about one journal she picked up, thinking that it was some book, only to find that it had no dust jacket, copyright or publishing information, and was liberally studded with earthier language than I usually use. She reiterated that she did not know it was one of my journals, despite the fact that she continues to tell me she is gathering them all together to send to me and she read halfway through the journal written in long hand before she figured out it was not a novel.
She was, she said, appalled by the language. "You are much more intelligent than that," she said. "And you have a much larger vocabulary. Why did you feel the need to write such filth?"
Well, without actually seeing the journal in question -- the one she mistook for a published book -- I can only say that sometimes when I am angry or hurt or writing about earthier subjects I do descend to using street language, the vernacular of the common man. Despite her haranguing me on several occasions about my hoity toity language and usage of foreign words she doesn't understand or know in order to put her down and remind her she is so much less sophisticated and continental than I am, she reminds me I don't have to use such language.
"Why I never used that language and it was around me growing up. I didn't know anything about lesbians or homosexuals, but I knew those words. I have never used them though," she reminds me yet again.
So what was the purpose of this particular Thursday night discussion? To tell me that I should have my journals published -- not the earthier parts of course. She went on and on about the way I see the world, about how I illustrate what I experience, view and know in ways she never knew were possible.
I explained that famous people's journals are worth publishing, but the musings and haunted days and nights I chronicled in those 50+ journals of various sizes, shapes, colors, and decorative bindings are not the words of a famous person. "Well, you might be famous some day," she said.
"Then someone will have them published when that happens," I replied.
Every few months my mother and I go through this dance about my journals. Those who read this journal and my other online blogs have had a taste of what those journals contain -- minus the sexual descriptions and experiences I keep for my paper journals. During these conversations nothing is ever solved. The words are pretty much the same and the outcome predictable.
Last night was different.
"I didn't know you were so unhappy," she said almost in a whisper. "You should have told us. We are your parents."
This from the woman who still gives me clothes and jewelry I wouldn't take to Goodwill or throw out in the trash. This from the woman who when I asked for a simple silver or gold chain sent me Mr. T's chains.
Maybe she couldn't tell how unhappy I was and didn't notice that I asked for pain pills though I won't even take aspirin and refused to take anything stronger than Tylenol #3 after major surgery. She never saw my eyes swollen and red from crying. She didn't notice that I seldom called or came by, and she certainly wouldn't have noticed since she came to my home twice in over 15 years. She never saw the suicide notes or knew how I planned my own death on several occasions. She didn't see me in the midst of the family, silent and fading into the wallpaper while everyone else stood in front of me. She evidently didn't read too far into my journals when she found out they really weren't about her but about the depth and darkness of my failing belief in love and life. She just didn't open her eyes and see me.
To this day, I wonder if she ever actually met me before or if she knows only the idea of me, a thought born when I was a small child or a teenager who kept getting in the way when she was focusing on her other children, the ones that needed all her time and attention when I could obviously take care of myself -- and did.
It is a sad truth that we notice the problem children, the negative press, the people who stretch and/or destroy society's patience and limits. We don't notice the people who pay their bills on time, win awards for spelling, writing, or citizenship, or the people who live, breathe and die in silent obscurity. We're too busy watching the fireworks to see the cinders crushed under our feet -- until bare skin touches their dying heat.
I told Beanie when I entrusted my journals to her that if anything happened to me to burn them. My mother got hold of them first. In a way, she is responsible for me keeping a journal online. Not because I expect people to pay attention or that a publisher will read what I write and decide it is worth publishing, but because I decided not to keep my pain, my joy, my adventures and my life between the mold-speckled pages of fraying journals packed away in forgotten dusty boxes for some stranger or relative yet to be born to find.
My mother doesn't have internet access and she doesn't surf the web. She knows about this blog and the others, but she only reads what I print out and send or what one of my relatives finds, reads and passes on in hopes of causing trouble.
There is only one good thing about her reading my journals. Maybe, finally, she will discover she has not actually met me before.