Feb. 25, 2011 at 10:03am
Twenty five years ago this month, my mother was killed in a car accident. My dad had just been given a raise or promotion at work, so we ordered take-out pizza to celebrate. Mom and her friend Cindy left to retrieve the meal while Dad stayed with the four of us kids. A traffic signal was malfunctioning at a busy intersection outside the mall in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Mom turned left into oncoming traffic. She was a tiny woman - barely five feet tall, if I remember correctly - and wasn't wearing a seatbelt. The impact to the sensible blue Dodge Colt caused one of her ribs to puncture her heart. Poor Cindy survived with minor injuries and Mom died in the hospital a few hours later.
While I was growing up, my family would often pass through that intersection on our way to Minneapolis from the suburbs. As a child, I didn't know it was morbid to wonder if there might be pieces of the Colt there that I could find and keep. I don't know why, but the thought comforted me. To be frank, that thought may have been the least pragmatic reaction I had to her passing. My six-year-old-self didn't have the emotional capacity to wallow in sorrow. The night of the accident, we got a phone call and someone took my sisters and me to stay with our babysitter, Anna Marie. I ate waffles and waited for Dad to come back.
The immediate sensation of loss never came. I guess a little boy can only experience the events while missing most of the meaning of them. There was no dramatic slowing of time or blurring of details - in fact, life became details and routines. One constant had been taken away from me, so anything reliable became all the more important. Life itself seemed unreliable and temporary after that, and I became distracted and distant trying to pay attention to all of the living going on around me - obsessively observing things before their inevitable departure.
For a while, we had a nanny named June. She used to scrub the faux-cobble linoleum of our entryway while signing
"Climb, climb up Sunshine Mountain
Heavenly breezes blow
Climb, climb up Sunshine Mountain
Faces all aglow
Turn, turn from sin and sorrow
Look to God on high
Climb, climb up Sunshine Mountain
You and I."
The pants she wore were always too small, and exposed an uncomfortable amount of her ass-crack while she sang and scrubbed. I was sure she was a murderer or a witch. She had a terrible face and talked too frequently of her husband, who had died years before in a boating accident.
Mom used to wear gray sweatshirts quite a bit. She wore them inside-out, which I suppose was sort of a 1980's fashion statement. After her death, I collected her sweatshirts and wore them inside-out to school. No one wears sweatshirts anymore. In fact, I rarely even see them at thrift stores these days. Back then, I had dozens of them, and they were eminently functional in Midwestern weather. I could even wear a sweatshirt to a fancy restaurant - such as Chi-Chi's Mexican Grill - if I wore a polo-shirt underneath.
It might seem silly, but I find the rapid internetting of our society a bit unnerving. Information is gathering in massive heaps, burying the past under mountains of barely-used data. Everyone I know is easily accessible or searchable - but not my Mom. She died before cell phones and internet and personal computers became commonplace. If I enter her name in a Google search, nothing is returned - almost as if she matters less than whatever Bollywood film most recently employed the word "rahe". But in one of life's amusing coincidences of utter irreverent indifference, the outside shot of a shopping mall at the beginning of the film "Mallrats" is the Eden Prairie Mall. As much as I enjoy Jay and Silent Bob, I really only love that movie for its opening shot. I haven't been to her grave since I was a child, but at least (in a small way) she's memorialized in some crude, Affleckian stoner comedy. Seriously, I'm fond of that movie.
comments  | posted under creative writingComments
by fredo on 2/25/2011 @ 10:13am
|The structure of your story reminds me a little of the movie "The Royal Tanenbaums" Perhaps this could be developed into a screenplay. Just thinking.|
by NineInchNachos on 2/25/2011 @ 10:32am
|I was thinking Errol Morris 'the thin blue line' Philip Glass soundtrack...
I also endorse wearing clothing inside out... especially if garments are 2nd hand or gifts with large obnoxious logos emblazoned across the chest. Just turn it inside out and you are logo free.
by The Jinxmedic on 2/25/2011 @ 10:48am
|A Philip Glass soundtrack would be fantastic.|
by Jesse on 2/25/2011 @ 11:55am
|It was hard for me to understand people like you before my dad died. It never quite gets better does it? Your outlook on life and, subsequently death, changes too. I am sorry you only had your mom until you were six. I keep telling myself I was lucky to have dad until I was thirty-four --- but I doubt I'll ever really believe it.|
by NineInchNachos on 2/25/2011 @ 1:16pm
|these are great. And I look forward to future writings about crazy step mom. Sharing is caring!|
by Maria on 2/25/2011 @ 3:47pm
|Though this entire piece is well-written and moving, that last paragraph pierced my heart. The unexpected but still connected introduction of an all-knowing, uncaring Internet, Bollywood and "Mallrats"--juxtaposed with your loss--kept the narrative from falling into platitudes.|
by KevinFreitas on 2/26/2011 @ 10:46am
|I'm with @Maria. So many beautiful images all while sharing your early life tragedy. Thanks so much and thanks as well @Jesse for your perspective as well.|
by captiveyak on 2/26/2011 @ 4:19pm
|Thanks everyone for saying nice things. I want to develop as a writer, beyond snark and commentary. It's fun trying to find a way to talk about yourself in a way that conveys humor and realistic perspective.
Jesse - I don't know... I think, in some ways, it does get better. The sense of loss doesn't go away, but I'm glad for almost all of the things I've had to work out in my head in order to deal with it, you know?
by Mofo from the Hood on 2/27/2011 @ 9:58am
|The fact of the matter is that neither of my parents lived long enough to see the birth and death of my blog.
Big F-ing deal. Like they wanted to ingest any more of my silly-ass commentary beyond the chaos that we all call family home life.
Sh*t, if my old man read my avatar he'd raise his glass of white lightning and laugh because he'd have no f-ing idea what I was attempting to convey. If my mother would've ever read my blog she'd say something like, "Better to have people think you're a fool than to open your mouth and prove it."
Thank God for parents who tell their kids to wise up.
Yeah, go out and get a tattoo and steal cars and smoke two packs of Pall-Mall's a day. Have all the women you want Mofo. Just don't start a f-ing blog and lay all your dumb-ass commentary on the rest of the world.
by fredo on 2/27/2011 @ 11:05am
|At least one person enjoys your postings Mofo, guaranteed.|
by captiveyak on 2/27/2011 @ 8:40pm
|What if I gave one of my recipes in my next post? I make an excellent tomato bisque.|
by Mofo from the Hood on 2/28/2011 @ 7:46am
|Would that tomato bisque be condensed?|