Monday, May 7, 2012

Listen to Your Mother - an amazing ride!

Photo courtesy of Anne Flournoy @TheLouiseLog
New York City's first (hopefully annual) Listen to Your Mother Show did indeed take place yesterday. And I produced it. (Chills.)

It was amazing, glorious, profound and moving. And I'm not blowing my own horn here, but talking about all my fellow cast members.  It was a privilege and honor to share the stage with them, to listen to their stories. (And? Thank goodness for waterproof mascara.)

I was so happy during the show. And then, afterwards, slid into that happy / sad place I often find myself in, when something so long anticipated and labored to bring to fruition is finally done, over, finished; and the world has whirled on.

The show's director, Amy and I were texting this morning about how we'd both had an odd insomnia last night, not wanting to go to sleep, because when we woke up it would have all become "yesterday," and we concluded it felt much like a wedding in that way.

I'm trying to still bask a little in the glow today, but there is so much to DO in all the rest of my life. (Isn't that ever so, once motherhood has come along and the term "free time" becomes an oxymoron?)

I have an essay reflecting upon the day and the production process in me, but it's not yet ready to come out today.  So instead I'm going to share what I read on the stage. (YouTube video will be available soon.)

This is a slightly expanded version of a post I wrote last June, that was also just published in StoryBleed online literary magazine last week, an essay called:

Holding Hands

Today my mother was tired when I stopped in to visit, planning to take her downstairs to lunch.

And while many a day I will coax and cajole, force her to rouse herself, to rise to the occasion, today I didn't. I let her be.

Why? Because I was tired, too.

So I didn't make her make an effort, make her rise and dress, put in her teeth. I did hand her her hearing aid, however, to make conversation less about shouting and gesturing, and guessing.

And then I laid down beside her on the big, now half-empty bed and held her hand.

And we talked.

We talked about the little things; about everything and nothing.

I told her how we had just this morning measured Ethan, to find he had grown a full half-inch in a month.

She patted her head and mine, proclaimed us both lucky in our luxuriant curly hair.

I talked to her about Jacob.

She furrowed her brow, "He's still autistic, isn't he?"

"Oh, yes, that's for certain, probably always will be."

Her eyes soften, wishing there were something she could do, finding nothing.

"But he's doing well? He's in a good school?"

"Yes, Mom, very well, and in a great school, where they love and appreciate him. I'll bring him by soon. He wants to see you, asks for you."

I haven't brought Jake to see my Mom since I had to put her cat Willie down last week. For a quite a while before that even, as Willie was growing quite frail, unable to handle the overly enthusiastic love of an autistic eight year old.

Jake adored that cat, will have a hard time with him gone. I'm not ready to handle that. Not yet.

“So everything is good then?”

“Yes, Mom, everything is just fine, terrific.”

(Terrific? Is not a word I would ever use to describe my life. Once you add Special Needs, Autism into the mix of kids and family, life becomes many things: intense. challenging, stressful - always - stressful, also meaningful and rewarding in ways I had never imagined.

But “just fine”? No. Not ever. Everything is not fine.

And also, this is news that cannot be shared with my mother, not anymore. She needs to know - to believe - that all is well with me, that caring for her is never a burden. She would feel so guilty if she thought she were one more weight heaped upon my difficult life.

She feels bad enough it’s me taking care of her now instead of the other way around; that I’m washing out HER underpants. So, to her, my life is “just fine.”)

"Haven't found me a man yet, have you?"

"Nope, Mom. They're either too old, too young or too... dull."

She nods in agreement, knows my father will be a hard act to follow. Yet, still, she longs for companionship.

We lay side by side, a short arms reach apart as I know she had lain for 51 years with my father on many a morning and evening (and, in their later, retired years, many an afternoon, too) talking about everything and nothing, the easy rhythms of intimacy.

I know this well in my own life, with my husband (though in these frantic years of young and special needs children, our quietly together times are much fewer and farther between) and with my son Ethan who jealously hoards his bedtime talking time with me, needing so much to process his day before releasing it to slumber. (Not an easy sleeper, that one, not at all.)

I held my mother’s hand. We talked of this and that, and then we drifted off to sleep; took a little nap, side by side, our fingertips a bridge from daughter to mother.

"I'm going to be 89 soon," she had said, "Imagine that."

"I can. I do. I'm no spring chicken myself, you know."

"I plan to make it to 100." Then, shaking her head, "Not likely."

"Why not?" I’d asked "Why not?'

She’d smiled.

We napped.

I woke first, slipped my hand from her now lax fingers, stepped into the kitchen to do a little cleaning up after my formerly fastidious mother who now sees no dirt.

I came back to wake her, to say goodbye. (There was so much to be done back across town, in my own life: groceries to purchase, children to retrieve, encroaching chaos to beat back.)

But first I sat softly on the bed, gently clasped her hand once again, leaned over to gaze at her barely lined, still beautiful face; whispered quietly, beneath the threshold of her dimmed hearing:

"Why not, 100? Why not?"


  1. Lovely, Varda.

    I'm glad your production went so well.


  2. You moved me to tears. Thank you for sharing. And thank you for reminding me of how lucky I am to have my mom alive (she had cancer about 5 years ago).

  3. Congratulations on the show! And beautiful post!


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