Thursday, May 10, 2012

Remembering Mom

In my own personal calendar, today is one of those anniversaries I would rather not have to observe ... but the weeks and months go by, time unspools, and there you are. It's twenty years since my mom passed away.

I prefer not to fix on the date of her death as a way of remembering Bonnie Masover. I'd rather remember her birth date, or to remember her on my own birthday, or just to remember her.

I wrote about the realization that my birthday is as much her occasion as mine in an extended eulogy about our relationship, a memoir-essay called "Speaking in Silences," published in Our Mothers' Spirits: Great Writers on the Death of Mothers and the Grief of Men. (The "great writers" in the subtitle include an impressive list of novelists, poets, essayists, and academics: John Updike, Wallace Stegner, John Cheever, Charles Olson, Henry Miller, Kenneth Rexroth, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Gus Lee, Hilton Als, Martin Duberman, et al.; and the volume's editor, UC Berkeley emeritus sociologist Bob Blauner. My own role in the table of contents is something closer to "filler" than "great writer" ... not that I've stopped trying.)

At any rate...

Here it is, ready or not, May 10th, twenty years on. I'm a couple years shy of Mom's age in 1992. Each time around the sun I become more keenly aware of how young she was when cancer won out over fierce determination to beat it. A lot of water has flowed under a lot of bridges since. She has missed much; she's been missed by many. Mom's grandchildren are eight and six years old, respectively. Though they live far enough from California that I spend time with them only rarely, I see Mom's face clearly in the photos my brother shares of a granddaughter she never met.

Losing Mom shook me to my foundation; twenty years gives a bit of perspective. It's true that life goes on. I can look up from my own grief now that its sting has dulled, and see that everybody's mom dies. We all do. Kids grow up to be like their forebearers, and different too. Memory fades no matter how hard we cling to it.

It's also true that feeling for those we love and lose is deeper and more particular than that sort of flat generalization.

I no longer miss Mom consciously each and every day. Time changes everything, but she remains a powerful current in me. Here's how I concluded my piece in Our Mothers' Spirits...:
I watch the world with her eyes. She lives in my deepest and least articulate places, the parts of me that lie many fathoms beneath words, in the bedrock of my self. That is her, my mother, there in the bedrock on which I stand.

She lives there still.


  1. What a lovely tribute you paid to your mother. I sure would have loved to meet her.

  2. Steve - beautifully said. Reflecting on what Matthew said, one of the hardest things about the loss of a parent is that no one you love after their death will meet them, know them, understand completely why you are the way you are. But, I'm sure in many ways those who love you now do know her through some of your best qualities.

  3. Beautiful tribute, Steve.

  4. Thanks to Matthew, Lindy -- and all who are reading, or reading and commenting, anonymously -- for remembering and honoring my mom with me.

  5. Beautiful, Steve. And, I AM the age my Aunt Bonnie was when she died. Sure does put a sad spin on things, to realize that she didn't have the opportunity to have the future birthdays that I do (and don't!) look forward to. I certainly haven't accomplished all I hope to in the my life so far. I wish I still had opportunities to share with her and learn from her - especially those silly things!