I seem to be surrounded by broken things, things that are incomplete. Mom died just over a month ago, not more than two weeks after her 90th birthday. Many cousins I hadn’t seen in a while came to her party. We all had a great time. I traveled from California to New Jersey to be there. About 6 months before her party she called me to ask if I would be coming to her party. I said, “I wouldn’t miss it.” She replied, “Good, I’ll hang on ’til then.” That type of response was typical for Mom. She had a way with words: gallows humor in a way.

After she died, Dave, my younger brother, and I cleared out her apartment. There were many items that triggered memories of my youth, and some things that I had never seen before: a letter from Mom to Dad that showed me a side of her that I had never seen. It was a glimpse of her life before Mike, my older brother, was born. Mike has never spoken. He is autistic and very low functioning. Mom thought that he willfully ignored her. The Zeitgeist also conspired against her. Mike was born in the midst of the era of the ‘refrigerator mother’ when the prevailing thought about autism was that the mother was responsible. Mom didn’t buy into this, but I can’t help thinking that it affected her on some level.

Dave has been shipping me some of Mom’s things in which I expressed an interest. Some of them have sentimental value and some do not. For example, my wife Joy and I bought Mom and Dad a tea set for one of their anniversaries. It is modernistic and playful, just the kind of thing that Mom liked. When it arrived in California, two tea cups were broken and the teapot and creamer were missing. Another item, which I wrapped very carefully and hand carried it home, was a delicate little clay horse. It was cartoon-like, a caricature of a horse in mid stride. I got it home in one piece but amidst the jostling of items I heard an unmistakable ‘ping’ of a narrow ceramic tube breaking. One of the outstretched legs of the horse broke off.

These broken and incomplete things seem to be a manifestation of my inner state. I have not consciously been grieving. I am very tired most of the time these days, but that could be part of the recovery process from my bout with the flu. Could that also be a sign of grief? Every now and then I feel like I should call Mom to tell her something, or see something on TV that I know she would like. Now and then I get a little weepy for no apparent reason. Perhaps something I see or hear triggers this in my unconscious and rises to consciousness in the form of sad emotions.

I understand that the grieving process is different for everyone. Some feel intense emotions of sadness, waves of sadness which takes breath away, from what I hear. I wonder if my grief will stay in my subconscious, peeking its head out in unexplained emotions or if it will come out in an obvious way that I will recognize.

Photograph: Broken Cup

Broken Cup
Digital Photo

4 thoughts on “Broken

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