Love, Up AgainPosted August 26th, 2004 by Sean Williams
The hard part about loving someone is that it basically almost always sucks. It seems to me that married love is the easiest kind, but the love you have for your friends and your family is just endlessly complicated. You are always desperate in your love for the people you can’t be intimate with, you suffer when they suffer, you feel pain when they don’t understand you, it’s just a pain in the ass.
My mom called last night terribly depressed because her sight is failing her in a number of ways, and I was up untill really late worrying about her. My guess is that what has her depressed is as much her eyesight as it is the inevitability of our failing bodies, the fact that we will return to dust at some point in the future, and she feels like these are the first awkward steps down that spiral. She thinks that way because she’s like me, (or rather I’m like her), we’re both incapable of looking at a situation and not assigning the most desperate drama to it that we can conjure. Not because we want to, it’s just something we do, like a horse bolting when it’s flank is whipped.
My mother’s eyesight is important to her because she writes music, and, strangely, your eyesight is more important to writing music than your hearing, as Beethoven proved. She already can hear all of the mistakes in her head, she writes on the airplane as much as anywhere else, she just needs to see the barlines and the flags to know the pitches and rhythms.
But, truth be told, if she was losing her hearing it would be this epic depression about a loss of music, about the tragedy that she can write the music but still not experience it. I’m not saying this to tease her, I just know me, I know that with each little problem, and even the big ones, I find a way for it to become a massive effect on my life and art. I hurt my knee and suddenly choreography was terrible, I tore my rotator cuff and I am trapped in a body that won’t function as my instrument for stagecraft…
The fact is, my mom is in her seventies and, unlike her siblings, she has no signs of heart problems, no signs of cancer, no signs of diabetes and, for a woman who has been overweight and an expert at orange rolls and bananas foster for the last twenty years, almost no health problems. I’ve said over and over in this blog that I don’t believe in God, that there is simply a cruel hand of fate dolling out undeserved punishment, but that hand has actually been kind to her for years and years.
And, Jesus Christ, what a life. She gets pissed because she has no home, she gets pissed because she has no money, she gets pissed because she never knows where her shit is, but when I describe my mom, people don’t believe me, and when they finally meet her they are blown away. Sure, her joints hurt sometimes, and yeah, her vision’s going a little bit nutty. But she lives her life the way that my friends only dream of. The path less travelled doesn’t begin to describe it, her life almost doesn’t make any sense. Where does her mail get delivered? Who is her doctor? How much is in her pension? These are questions that can’t even begin to be answered.
They can’t because she is an actual bohemian, she’s an actual musician. She isn’t a downtown beatnick, she’s not a joiner, she’s never been part of a celebrity culture or a member of a collective. She is a whirlwind, a force of nature, she drives people fucking *CRAZY*. The more rules you have for your life, the more desperate you are to show that the world functions in an orderly system, the more *INSANE* this woman will drive you. She will wander in to your room and ask you for a ride to the airport when you had no idea she was leaving, she’ll put a tape in your car stereo when you’re sitting in a drive through and you’ll be crying too hard to order, she’ll show up at dinner with bread flower on her pants, a loaf of fresh bread and a huge smile.
People work and then they retire, but she has written music and taken care of children from the time she was a child until now, and she will continue to do so. If you listen to her music and pay her she will be a little bit happier than if you don’t, and if you listen to her parenting and heed her, you will be a little bit happier than if you don’t. She’s never going to be celebrated the way she should, but it hardly matters.
She drives me nuts sometimes. The thing we hate most in ourselves is the thing we despise in other people, and I got my penchant for navel gazing, ranting and railing and heightened self importance from her. Actually, the heightened self importance was from both parents, and all of us kids got it, we suffer in broad declarative strokes, and we *freak the fuck out* if you don’t respect our obvious and voluminous pain. But my mom can’t be dismissed in this way. When she chose to write music instead of becoming a concert pianist, she was making the choice to be a quiet force in the world. When she buried her first husband and had six failed pregnancies, she probably railed and ranted the way I imagine I would have, but she also learned. And now, she’s bitching about her eyes and I’m not sleeping (because I’m trying to make it about *me*), but when her eyes slip to wherever they’re going, she’s still going to write music and she’s still going to be the voice I hear when I feel lost, because that’s who she’s been, always, whether it’s recognized or not, whether she’s paid or not, whether she knows it or not.
I imagine her at 97, still struggling to see, bent over a piano and speaking over her shoulder to her grandchildren and Sean Patrick’s children and saying, “you don’t want to double the seventh or the fifth, because… listen…”