There’s a picture of my mother in her senior yearbook, circa, 1964 on page 83. She’s standing on the edge of her row in a knee-length skirt and a white blouse with a ruffle collar that has somehow been gotten ahold of by the wind and has flapped up, obscuring her jawline. Her hair is jet black and short, longer on top. I am a replica of my mother at this age. There’s a picture of me with the same look on my face. I’ve been searching the cloud for it, but it’s lost for now.
I sent her the pictures of her in the chorus and her senior picture and she replied: Time may change the person’s looks, but, hopefully improve the person.
I’m not close with my parents. They’ve been pretty terrible as providers and role models. I have been the adult in our relationship since about age 9 or 10. I have answered bill collectors, gone in search of groceries, explained the psychology of one parent to the other, and I have been protected by my older brother when one of them went berserk crazy on me, which seemed to happen every other night, always somewhere around 2am when the fighting reached a fevered pitch.
My mother had a stroke when she was 43, a little younger than me now. Her blood pressure was always astronomical – somewhere in the 200/100 range. Her temper notwithstanding, she was a perfect candidate for a stroke, a heart attack, and diabetes – all of which she accomplished before the age of 50. After the stroke, her temperament changed. She used to get bug-eyed with rage. It was as if she took on a different persona. Her neurologist remarked to me that it was the shock of having had a serious medical issue. I didn’t think so. Something rewired her chemistry. No one makes that big of an about-face naturally.
These days, she’s in her 70s, living life out in an apartment with my father. They want to move to Florida. She sent me all the houses they were looking at. I had to sort through their pros and cons with her, encourage her to make good choices.
Today at work we are brewing beer in a little microbrewery as a team building event. I helped to measure out the malt, grind it, add the hops, water, heat it all up, where it has been boiling for a while. We are making a blood orange pale ale. It smells delightful. Ever curious, I wandered out of the brewhouse to talk to the electricians hanging out in the building next door. They were discussing the ammonia storage tanks with me, their jobs, the things they take care of all day.
Last night at yoga, I was antsy, trying to center myself over and over again. My posture was all wrong and I got frustrated. It is quite an event to settle yourself down. The teacher brought some essential oils with her and the air was bergamonty and some kind of sage, I think. I was reminded of my spiritual leader Thích Nhất Hạnh’s words:
breathing in, I am fresh,
breathing out, I am a flower,
dwelling in this present moment,
I know it’s a wonderful moment.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.