Sunday, November 08, 2009


Duffy is nearly four months old now, and I am able to employ my hands in things other than taking him out to pee, cleaning up pee, picking up poop, or monitoring dog-dog combat. They are getting along fine, the pup and the pit, for those of you who worry. Duffy is alpha and Sid is basically gay, so it works.

I don't know if I wrote about it or not, but vacation a couple of years ago brought us through Arcata on our way south to Mendicino. My favorite aunt lives there, lived there, and when we visited it was clear that dementia had done its handiwork on a once-fine mind. She was a brilliant woman, a genealogist with an attitude, racist about phone voices "Can I get someone who speaks English, please?", and politically just to the right of Atilla the Hun. This last according to her right wing children. My family swung far left, artists and alkies all.

So, my aunt was placed in a dementia unit, much like mine, I suppose, and her house recently sold. Her children, much more organized than my clan, cleared out her house and brought me some photographs and documents they thought I'd like to have, and because I am currently the most responsible person in my family still living (I know, scary) they thought I'd be a good steward for the family treasures.

I exaggerate. There was no treasure. But there were letters, which are treasures to me. Letters from my mother to her sister.

I know I've characterized my mother as a madwoman in these pages. I know. And to be fair, she was. But she was my mom, so I get to say that stuff, just like my son is the only one who can say it about me. And he's welcome to say what he will.

The letters are precious, and reveal a hopeful if not an optimistic woman, badgered by poverty she could never see her way out of, even when the opportunity presented itself. They tell of job after job, hovel after hovel, where she scratched out a life lived without money for stamps or long distance or gas money or dental care. Of a belief in the goodness of her children even when anyone could see we were pure shit.

Once about twenty years ago I did a sort of life review, a sort of therapeutic retrospective, and found that by the time I was 33 I had moved 48 times that I could remember.

Let's just say I know how to pack.

So reading my mother's letters was like watching a movie of my late childhood, and the years after I left home, too early, where the comments about me are scarce but hopeful.

Time to take Duffy out.

1 comment:

asha said...

Kisses to the pooches. Family letters really are treasurers. I have some, written by my grandparents in pencil that are over 100 years old. "Date your letters" mom always used to say and now I see why.