My father has been a favorite topic. I have rarely written about my mother. Our relationship was complex and still - 44 years after her death at the State Hospital in Norristown - difficult to sort out.
How my mother reacted after my marriage to Pete - she loved him when we were engaged and resented him thoroughly after we married - perhaps colored my memories of her. My fears of suffering from dementia, as she did at the end of her life, may also have colored my perspective.
Over the past three years - thanks to many conversations with Elsa, who pokes about in and rummages through my memory banks - my memories of my mother have changed, expanded, filled out.
My mother despised her christened name - Idirene. As soon as she could, she changed it to Rene (rEnah). She and Papa met at a family reunion – they were distantly related.
They must have made an interesting pair. My father loved life, while my mother’s staunch Methodist upbringing considered that anyone having fun must be doing something bad. They were so different, yet they were devoted to each other.
Only recently did it dawn on me that she was only 53 years old when Papa died, 10 years younger than I was when Pete went. Is it always hard to see our mothers as "sisters" instead of one-dimensional figures? I continue to work at opening myself up to give depth to my image of her, to see her as another woman, grieving for her man and left with two teenagers.
My father was quite conservative when it came to his politics and quite liberal when it came to his views on life. I remember Papa as a passionate, loving man. Looking back from the perch of personal antiquity, it dawns on me that my mother must have been torn between the passionately loving ways of my father and the "sex is to endured" teachings she was brought up with. Did she feel a sense of guilt over having so much fun "in the sack"?
What I know for sure is that she continued to give the negative message about marital relations throughout her life. Luckily, being my father’s daughter, I never gave it any credence. I do recall a conversation with Dot, my oldest sibling, when we were both young women (we were neither of us married or anywhere close). She commented on how women have to "bear" it and all I could say to her was that I expected to enjoy every moment.
Although I am sure I shocked her down to her toes. All I could and can think was what a waste of God’s gifts it would be to have thoughts of male/female relationships within marriage be anything but joyous. I still think "Yippee!" and look forward to a FULL reunion with my O! Best Beloved, warming myself at what John Donne called a bonfire of two loving hearts, one light burning clear.
Love to one & all - the Gramster