Sunday, November 15, 2009

Complex Love

I begin the one-mile walk to Mom's house to check on her. I love this walk, but I don't enjoy seeing her diminish daily. She is not going gently into that good night and neither am I. When people ask how she is doing, she says, "I'm still kicking, just not quite as high."

I notice the beauty of everything so much more now through the awareness of Mother's frailty. That's one of the reasons I take my digital camera everywhere I go. I see this tree and it reminds me of Mom. The coldness, the green bark hanging on to summer. It is wrenching to be in this stage of life and death with Mother, but there is also a certain beauty to it.

When I get to her house, she tells me she can't figure out how to turn off the gas stove so I do it for her and add another worry to my list.  She has also forgotten to take 3 of the compartments of pills I have set out and labeled for her.

Mother has always eaten very sensibly and been very health-conscious. Now, at 95, she wonders why she was so careful. Her husband and all of her close friends are gone.  The image I have of my mother in my mind's eye will always look something like this picture. I will always remember her sense of humor and the sweet torture of listening to her laugh with Dad while my sisters and I tried to get to sleep. She has always had cute little sayings that are so unique like, "Why don't we whistle and start over? " or "Clean is a good color," and this phrase that she can say incredibly fast, "You dirty rotten, turkey-trottin', fly-blowed, maggot-eatin', hammered-down, sawed-off piece of sewer pipe and California peanut!"

I want to firm up some of her history before she gets more forgetful so I ask her about her grandmother and why she was called, "Mungie." She explains that Enid, the oldest grandchild came up with this pronunciation of Grandma. She remembers that the family made fun of how Mungie said that food was "good tasted," and no one could talk her out of it.

Mungie was a very strong woman who crossed the plains with her parents. Mom said Mungie had a way about her that made her, as a little girl want to open up to her more than her own Mother. Mungie took turns staying with different members of the family after her husband shot himself because he couldn't bear the pain of his stomach cancer. Mother was about 18 when this happened and her mother , who we called Nama, told her of the painful ambulance ride she took with her father (Mungie's husband).  As he was dying, he whispered to her, "I want you to know that I love you all, " and then he died. (below, Nama,as young woman and with first great-grand-child)                                                                                        

 All Souls
Did someone say that there would be an end,
An end, Oh, an end, to love and mourning?
Such voices speak when sleep and waking blend,
The cold bleak voices of the early morning
When all the birds are dumb in dark November -
Remember and forget, forget, remember.
After the false night, warm true voices, wake!
Voice of the dead that touches the cold living,
Through the pale sunlight once more gravely speak.
Tell me again, while the last leaves are falling.
"Dear child, what has been once so interwoven
Cannot be raveled, nor the gift ungiven."
Now the dead move through all of us still glowing,
Mother and child, lover and lover mated,
Are wound and bound together and enflowing.
What has been plaited cannot be unplaited -
Only the strands grow richer with each loss
And memory makes kings and queens of us.
Dark into light, light into darkness, spin.
When all the birds have flown to some real haven,
We who find shelter in the warmth within,
Listen, and feel new-cherished, new-forgiven,
As the lost human voices speak through us and blend
Our complex love, our mourning without end.
May Sarton


  1. OH, Kass. What a beautiful post. It is late-ish for me on a Sunday night and I've had a pretty terrible day including bad news (a death), emotional pain (to be blogged about sometime) and physical pain (took a deep dive on the concrete sidewalk in front of god and everybody). But the beauty of this post and your female ancestors. I'll be back tomorrow, my facility with words intact and flowing. Have you read any of my older posts about Granny-O? I have some lovely, strong female ancestors, too.

  2. this hit on so many notes currently playing in my life, i hardly know what to say, besides, thank you.

  3. Simply beautiful...a testament to your mother and your love. Be well.

  4. Great post
    Great photographs

  5. Do you know Kass, there's a beautiful place by your name in India? Check my post on Kas Plateau.

  6. Love is never simple. It's not until we step back from it we can be objective enough to realise how complex it is. My mother died in her mid-seventies although she never got any more dotty than she had been all her life and yet on her death bed (death couch actually – she never slept in a bed after my dad died) I learned things I had never known before, simple things, about her living on a farm, which I had known nothing about before, so don't wait too long to ask your questions. My wife has just come back from visiting her mother in America – she's now in her mid-eighties and the dementia has a good grip on her – and that was a difficult visit for a lot of reasons. Like I said, love is never simple.

  7. Hey, Kass ~ there are several Granny-O pieces, but I'm glad you landed on Engelborg and enjoyed it. What a hoot that you're a massage therapist. Be VERY glad I'm not near you. I'm afraid I'd pester you to death, as I am an addict. I don't care about whether it's the movement of CSF, I just love it for the way it feels. More on the "Limes" designation later. And, yes, I'm utterly driven to write the posts, tell the stories. I'm compelled.

  8. So poignant, so beautifully written, and could definitely be a book. I'm so happy you're sharing your gifts with the blogging world. I think you've found your venue.
    You also look incredibly like Nama as a young woman.
    love you.

  9. Beautiful poem.

  10. Limes and Standing - Isn't it interesting how much our common stories bring us together?

    Christella - I appreciate your wish of wellness.

    dinesh - Thank you for kind words.

    Bahvesh - Your Kas Plateau is amazing photography. I hope other commenters take a look.

    Jim - Love is Never Simple - Everything you write is packed with so much. Thank you.

    Marie - You are a great encourager and audience. Thank you.

    Equinox - I do loves me some poetry. You too?

  11. a beautiful post with wonderful pictures -- a difficult time for you and, of course, your mother, you will learn so much and become stronger and wiser through this experience. Poetry does help.

  12. June, I guess you have gone through this too. Was your mother near you in New York? Thanks for your comment.

  13. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on a difficult subject. I particularly identified with the worries around forgetting how to turn off the gas. I wrote a post in August called "Making Porridge" about my dad's absence of mind around the stove. It's all just terrifying.

  14. Kass, sometimes there as questions like yours to me here that I'd love to answer you in an email but you don't have an email enabled in your blog profile. I do have, so if you wish, please email me and then we can fill in bits of info that aren't necessarily blog-worthy. I sometimes have questions for you I don't want to leave on a blog too.

  15. Your post struck home, Kass. I, too, tended to my Mother as she faded into oblivion. It is a profound experience...this loving the dying.

  16. Thank you so much for visiting my blog, I have met such wonderful fellow writers via John's space. It's a joy!

    (I'm a woman who runs with wolves, myself...)

    You should submit this post to they are accepting submissions for publication until March 2010. This story needs a larger audience. It warms me. :)

  17. I agree with should submit it for publication. xoxo

  18. My oh my. Your poetic ruminations along with May Sarton's are almost too much to absorb in one sitting. Lovely soul-stirring words.

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