So my dear Mom, fresh back from a road trip with her BFF (she's feeling that good these days - modern medicine has its virtues) is telling me about all the friends she was able to see at the holiday trailer in Harrison. One of them, Jane**, a woman about her age, is apparently having some memory issues herself.
Not able to remember that she, too, was feeling pretty anxious about it herself up until 4 weeks and new meds ago, she says, "And poor Jane, she's having such a hard time with it." She smiles and laughs like Jane is somehow just missing the point and I have no heart to bring up people-in-glass-houses truisms.
"She's so embarrassed by it," says she, my indestructible Mom. "It's like she can't just live in the moment." She makes a pompous face; chin in, shoulders back. "She takes it all so seriously!"
We laugh, because it's funny (not Jane's anxiety - I know, even Mom knows, that it's not especially a laughing matter - but the delivery and expression are perfection) and also because it's just great to hear her laugh.
Then she gets serious. "I just wish that I didn't feel so guilty."
I shake my head. The change of direction is kind of stunning. "Guilty?" I say. "What about?"
Her face scrunches, my fragile Mom, equal parts sorrow and confusion. "Oh, all the things. Your Dad. Everything. I'm so worried that God won't forgive me even though I ask. Every night."
This both breaks my heart a bit, and raises my gorge. Of all the people.... It's just wrong.
The god issue is one we rarely discuss. She knows my thoughts are... eclectic. She was raised Mennonite Brethren - strictly hellfire and damnation. Her utterly illogical and overwhelming guilt, and the institutions capable of using it so carelessly and intentionally, are a big part of the "why" of my eclectic agnosticism. Guilt was injected into her DNA at a young age and we haven't found an effective gene therapy for it yet.
Somehow, I seem to have escaped permanent infection. Maybe it's because I was adopted.
"Mom, don't you think that a god worth believing in, a god that would die for you, would have heard and delivered the first time you asked?"
We've had this talk before, and she's heard it in her heart before - where truth really rests - but like so many things now, it requires re-visitation.
She smiles, remembering, like a star peeking out of the twilight. "Yes, I know. I suppose He would. It's just so hard sometimes. To remember that. You know?"
"I know," I say. "But it's worth remembering. Let's make a post-it and put in on the computer. You can remind yourself every time you sit to play Spider Solitaire."
She gives me that look, very serious like when she used to tell the teenage me that smoking was bad. "That's a great idea. I'll see it every time I e-mail you too."
"That you will. Any idea where your Post-it's are?"
"Oh, I just saw them earlier. Now where did I put them...?" There's a pause and she looks around her, lost. Forlorn.
And she pulls them out of her little emergency bag. Presto. Haha, the jokes on me. And we laugh.
* Extra awesome points if you can name the movie this fragment of dialog came from.
** All names except "Mom" are fictionalized. Everything else, as best as I wish to put it back together, is pretty much true.