Tomorrow I am back at USC for two days of exciting Chemotherapy magic fun time.
My last chemo was four weeks ago, and just as I was wrapping it up, my mother passed away. Yeah, I know. Weird. Strange confluence of events. Very sad.
The Doctors propped me up with four different kinds of anti-nausea medicine and I flew back to South Carolina for the weekend to bury my Mom.
Now, I had an extremely complicated relationship with my mother. Much of the blame probably rests with me, I don’t know. In a Southern family like ours there’s often an abundance of blame to go around.
I spent a lot of time on the plane, just sitting there, eyes closed, thinking of my mom. It’s not easy putting a life and a relationship in perspective on a USAir flight to Charlotte, but I did my best.
One thing I always appreciated about my Mom was her insistence on giving her kids everything she could, even in the days when there was little or no money to go around.
When I was ten or eleven, my Little League Coach told us a photographer was coming to take pictures. We would need eighteen bucks for twelve wallet size action shots.
I knew this wasn’t going to fly. I knew we didn’t have eighteen dollars to spend on pictures of me in my “Hayes Jewelers” baseball uniform. But I asked anyway. And my Mom didn’t blink, just launched right in with a solution. We didn’t need some photographer ripping us off, she would take my picture, make twelve copies and save us a bunch of money.
But she wanted it to look professional, like a real photographer had taken them. So, she hung a sheet over my closet door as a backdrop, told me to get in my uniform and she would take my picture.
I grabbed a bat, stood in front of that sheet with all the intensity of Brooks Robinson staring down Tom Seaver and she snapped away. I was a badass, my Mom was awesome and no one was going to know I didn’t have eighteen dollars for pictures.
She had the film developed and a week later handed me twelve prints.
But when I saw the pictures I didn’t see Brooks Robinson staring down Tom Seaver, I saw a skinny kid standing in front of a sheet thrown over his closet door. And my Mom had not taken any time to actually frame the picture so in the corner of my big baseball action shot was my little sister, sitting in a tiny chair, waiting to get her picture taken in front of the sheet. I was mortified. I took the pictures and hid them in a drawer.
Decades later, that moment seems to offer some perspective to our relationship. My Mom loved me, she just didn’t always know exactly how to frame it.
And I was far too often an ungrateful little shit. I wanted the perfect eighteen dollar pictures I thought I saw in the lives of my friend’s families. Not the messy, badly art directed pictures being developed in my own house.
Yes, maybe I’m stretching the analogy a bit and chewing a little scenery as I go. But somehow it makes a complicated relationship make just a little more sense to me.