Mother, you've always made it a point to be there when I needed you. The times you would be waiting for me outside to walk me home after school. The time when I was using a chair as the catalysis to slide across the waxed floor in the basement to mimic flight--just to crash into a wall and split my chin; your soothing words and gentle touch I will never forget for as long as I live, and if I do, I have the scare to remind me. Or the many times you drove me past a girl's house. I was too afraid to go up to the front door and knock, but you drove me anyway!
I remember the times when you and I would stay up late while everyone else was asleep, and you would fry chicken and the two of us would eat it while watching some old movie on TV. Though I was young, even then I could see you needed my company to ease the pains of life that you were experiencing. I often watched your face during the movie, and the blank stare reflected an inner turmoil that no old movie could erase.
Mother, Mother, what did you see? This was a question a child's heart asked; now that I am a man, the answer is an inescapable reality in my own life.
The blank stare reflected a life that could have been--a marital relationship that was rooted more in a dream than a nightmare, a life that draws from the reservoir of creative potential and not from the stagnant still waters that seem to always run deep, when time is used as an ally for growth and not just: yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Yes, I know now what it was your eyes were fixed upon. They went further than what was on the TV screen. They looked to a world where the people who shared your home truly loved one another, a place where conflicts could be resolved without violence of body or mind, a place where a job is a career and not just a means to pay the bills, a place where the word Love is an action word and not just a sound floating on the winds of our lives with no greater weight than the air that carries it.
I too find myself up late at night staring at a TV screen, but my eyes are fixed on the ways and means of changing this desert of despair to an oasis of true love and creative self-expression. A human life must have meaning and purpose or it's just surviving and not living--a mere reflection of joy and happiness, but never reaching the point of satisfaction with either. I believe every human life has the potential to live free and fulfilled if the individual is not willing to sell their birthright of creative potentials for a bowl of porridge filled with ill-fated temporary thrills. Helen Keller said it best, "It is hard to creep when the impulse is there to soar." So many of us look to the here and now and only seek to satisfy the desires of the moment, failing to embrace the promise born of sacrifice and denial for a greater expression of ourselves to the world we live in.
Mother, I don't know how long I have in this world, but as long as there is life in this body, I will strive to reach that mountaintop. I owe it to the unfulfilled dreams of you and Father, to plant our flag on its highest peak. Like some my heart embraces the wisdom of Harriet du Autremont, "No vision and you parish; no ideal, and you are lost; your heart must cherish some faith at all cost. Some hope, some dream to cling to, some rainbow in the sky, some melody to sing to, some service that is high."
The Anderson name will one day stand for something other than obscurity. Our years of blank stares shall refocus my mind to that wonderful shore, which for so long seemed just an illusion. A land where life is creatively real, and the fruits are not only satisfying to the pallet, but to the soul as well.
Mother, Mother, I now know what you see--because I see it too!
By John Wesley Anderson Jr.
Author of Shades of Winter
John Wesley Anderson, Jr. was born in Detroit. For the past 15 years, Anderson has been a funeral director and embalmer in the Tacoma, Washington area. He attended Kansas City Kansas School of Mortuary Science and Counseling. Anderson is the proud father of two sons and currently resides in Spanaway, Washington.
"Shades of Winter: Reflections of Spring"
By John Wesley Anderson, Jr.