Bett Norris


Bad One

I dreamed again about Mama and Jimmy last night. This morning I wait until the dream, a bad one, fades away, both mourning the loss of detail and clarity and relieved by it. I take some pills that are supposed to make me feel better. Drink coffee, read the news, and wait.

I do realize that I have spent most of my life trying to figure out my relationship with my father when it has been my mother to whom I am inextricably bound.

I have no contemporary pictures of my father. All the ones I have are from before I was born.  I look at them, the sepia tones making him seem older and farther away from me, in his WWII army uniform, or with a fedora pushed back on his head holding a baby.

The photos of my mother are more present, in color, and in my memory, so that looking at them makes me sad. I do have clear memories of her when she looked just as she does in these pictures.

I thought I got through Mother’s Day pretty easily.  This dream must be some sort of delayed reaction to, through strength of will, having avoided somehow not languishing in sorrow that weekend.

My siblings (at least some of them) want me to come back for a visit. When I talk to them, I make up my mind that I really want to go back to Alabama to see them all, to sit once again on Mama’s back porch, and pretend for a while that the loss is less than it is, that we are still a family.

After I get off the phone doubt sets in, and fear that it won’t be the reunion and healing that I want it to be.

Talking to them is a complicated process, where I call my brother or my sister, and they have me relay messages to other siblings to whom they are not speaking, then get back to them as if I am a conduit, the viaduct through which our conversation flows.

I realize that we all used Mama this way, as a clearinghouse for updates and messages and connection, and without her to put through our information, we are left separated. She made us feel like a family, whether we were on speaking terms or not.

I miss her, and I have questions I want to ask her. But I am, some part of me, grateful that she no longer has to carry our troubles, squabbles, problems and resentments on her shoulders like a shawl. I am glad she is free of our entanglements now.

I never had children. I couldn’t carry the weight of all their needs and dreams and hurts.

I don’t know how she did it. It really is selfish of me to wish she could still be here to listen to me, to tell me about my brothers and sisters, to keep me connected to them.

I imagine that the benefit of dying is that you get to ease into nothingness, or heaven, and rest. The laying down of burdens.

“For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,”

How sad and morose I am this bright Sunday, the noon sun bearing straight down.

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