Saturday, November 28, 2009

I Love You, I Swear I Do

Saturday’s Gratitude List:
I’m sober and I can feel the feelings I used to treat with mind-altering substances.
It is great to be myself.
It’s great to have a daughter named Milo, who was a good sport on Black Friday.
There were 109 years of sobriety sitting at the birthday table today, and eight newcomers.
My mom was a good mom.
Leftover pumpkin pie
I have a marvelous husband who cleaned up the dog puke on the couch today.

Thanksgiving is over and Black Friday must have made the retailers happy. There are leftovers in the fridge and I munch on homemade pumpkin pie as I write. I drink hot tea trying to fight off a cold.
The confluence of mother, daughter, granddaughter struck a chord with you yesterday, and today it’s on my mind again. Mama losing her mind, daughter trying to be Mama to Mama, but also be Mama to 23-year-old daughter.

On Black Friday, before it was called Black Friday, Mom and I used to go shopping for sales. Now it is my own daughter I take, and we have fun buying gifts for Christmas. I leave my Mom at her care home because she would be too confused by the madness, of which there is little, actually, in our small city.

Traditions are changing as my parents’ generation dies off, and my generation becomes the teachers. When I was younger, we used to sit up late at night making gifts for loved ones: sewing shirts, knitting afghans, even recovering book matches with shiny paper for Uncle Fred.
Now it’s buy, buy, buy, run up the credit cards, who cares? I watch my daughter carefully parcel out money on her debit card, and it makes me smile. Her frugal mother has taught her something!

I’ve had the great honor of reading my story and poems on our local NPR station this coming week, and today I learned I’ve had two poems accepted on Bolts of Silk’s poetry blog (it’s on my blog roll).

Mama is missing
(All the king’s horses, all the king’s men…)

Are you in there, Mama?
Inside the prison of your brain
where thoughts crumple
like a wrecked train?

I want to believe some part of you
still thrives, disguised as a
tiny old lady lost in a maze
of days that all run together.

In some corner of that drifting mind
is the blunt strong woman who
deliberated carefully and behaved
sensibly, no fact left behind.

She is bewildered now by
the world of commerce, mystified.
She worships oak trees and
old barns, the totems of her life.

The physical world sends her
into paroxysms of wonder.
A round rock makes her smile.
The sky makes her sing.

You take good care of me,
she says, not knowing how
I hate what she’s become.
I hug her filled with grief.

I miss our conversations.
I wish I’d known the last one
was the last one we would have
and I could remember it in detail.

This transition from mother
to child has flummoxed me.
I love you, I do, I swear I do,
but I wish you would come home.

Chris Alba © 2009
Photo courtesy


the walking man said...

Of the poem I only have one question. What use is it to race against time, which moves so much faster than you can run?

Good news on the being accepted and especially the NPR Well Done Chris!!!

Karen said...

First, congrats on NPR and Bolts of Silk!!

Chris, you know how your mother poems resonate with me. I've been trying to put into words how much I miss my mother. The child-woman she has become, my newest daughter, is not the strong woman who ran an emergency room and nursed everyone in our small town. It is so heartbreaking, but I thank God that she was the strong woman she was and that I knew her then. It is also an honor and a grief that I do what I do for her. Your last lines have left me with tears in my eyes.

Madison said...

'I can feel the feelings I used to treat..' I love that. Enjoyed the poem and reflections on the past vs the present. I'm glad you're getting recoginition for your beautiful writing.

Brian Miller said...

good job mom, teaching your little uns. very cool the accolades you are getting this week as well. as far as your verse, a transition i hope never to see...for i think it would break my heart...

Lou said...

Wow Chris, you are getting famous;)

"my mom was a good mom" I wish we knew that when we were younger...

sarah said...

this is written so well. It makes me feel the pain of watching the decline, the loss....Stay strong. sarah

Tall Kay said...

You have the gift of touching hearts with your poetry. What a wonderful honor to be recognized!

Your poem got me choked up too. We never know if this will be the last conversation. A beautiful message to relish the present moments with loved ones.

I hope you don't forget about us when you're famous! :o)

Madison said...

Hi Chris, thanks for stopping by and being confused. I rewrote the first couple of paragraphs. I appreciate your honesty so much. Have a wonderful weekend.

Beth Niquette said...

I wonder how you were able to get free? Congratulations--it IS a wonderful life! ((hugs))

Poetikat said...

Oh, Chris! If only you knew how THIS strikesd a chord with me!
Not my mom, but my father who had Parkinson's and dementia before he passed away last November.
I know so well, that fine line between care and love, and repulsion at what they become. And then of course, the guilt for feeling it.
It's so hard, but I was raised to believe that commandment, "Honour your father and your mother" and that's what I continue to do, even after he's gone. Now it's mom, who's my responsibility (she's 80 and lucid, but still, there are the frailties and the inconsistencies.
I can't say it gets easier, but you will cope. You just have to.

(Funny, my wonderful husband cleaned up two cat-spews this morning. Gotta love them for that, eh?)

Great news on the "Bolts of Silk" and of course NPR. You are a tremendous poet and I love reading your fine work.


big Jenn said...

Very cool, NPR!
If you think about it, your mom is still mothering you because you have to rise to meet the challenge of the difficulty of dealing with what she's becoming now.You have to be "better" as a person, do you know what I mean?
Life is full of grace.
You're such a blessing to us all here in blogland Chris.jeNN

Just Be Real said...

Post shares your heart and pain. Your poem is absolutely touching. For me to be touched, that is a great feat! Thank you for sharing.... blessings.....

Syd said...

This brought tears to my eyes. It is so hard to see the parents age. Mine are now dead but I can see the train of time bearing down on my wife's parents. I know her heart aches to see it also.

Julie said...

Oh, Chris! I can't believe I missed this one. In my mad dash to catch up with everyone after traveling, I missed too many important things. I also missed your radio cast above, and I'm wondering if there's an archive where I can still listen to it? I'll go look at the link at see.

I met a lady during the Thanksgiving holiday who has Alzheimer's, and she brought back so many painful (but oddly enough, also happy) memories of loved ones and friends who have had this crushing disease. This subject has been on my mind a lot, and your poem encompasses all of the feelings that go with it.

Your poem is sad, yes. But it is also beautiful. I love it so much. Stanzas four and five leap out at me, because I love the positive feel of the details. A round rock makes her smile. The sky makes her sing!

Stanzas two and three really nail it. Yes, I do believe she is there. I really do. I can also see her personality through the beautiful details in your poem. I am so sorry for your grief and heavy load. But at the same time, I am in awe of your compassion and love. This is a wonderful tribute.