One of my most treasured inheritances from Mom is a photocopied poem, surrounded by a hand-made sussy purple oval, held in a clunky, old wooden frame.
The poem is by Jenny Joseph. It’s not long:
“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me. And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter. I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells And run my stick along the public railings And make up for the sobriety of my youth. I shall go out in my slippers in the rain And pick flowers in other people’s gardens And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat And eat three pounds of sausages at a go Or only bread and pickle for a week And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry And pay our rent and not swear in the street And set a good example for the children. We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now? So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
I love that poem, and the fact that it meant so much to Mom.
I also treasure an old, tattered poem that was special to Mom towards the end. She gave a photocopy to all three of us kids before she died in 1996.
On my copy, she scrawled “Billy”, alongside the swirly strokes you make when you’re trying to get a pen to write.
TO THOSE I LOVE
When I am gone, release me, let me go — I have so many things to see and do.
You mustn’t tie yourself to me with tears, Be happy that we had so many years.
I gave you my love. You can only guess How much you gave to me in happiness.
I thank you for the love you each have shown, But now it’s time I traveled on alone.
So grieve awhile for me if you must Then let your grief be comforted by trust.
It’s only for awhile that we must part So bless the memories with your heart.
I won’t be far away, for life goes on So if you need me, call and I will come.
Though you can’t see and touch me, I’ll be near — And if you listen with your heart you’ll hear All of my love around you soft and clear.
And then, when you must come this way alone, I’ll great you with a smile, and “Welcome home.”
In truth, that poem troubled me a bit. Because at times, in my sorrow, I have called Mom. And she didn’t come. Or at least I didn’t hear her, or feel her.
But recently she did come, when I was at a time of real difficulty, and she touched my heart.
I was tidying up my home office when I came upon an unlined, 3 x 5 card written in Mom’s unmistakable “chicken scratchings”.
She had probably copied it from an Al-Anon book. And on this day she was giving it to me anew. I needed it.
Because, even though I haven’t lived with alcoholism for 40 years, I still suffer from the “isms”, like many adult children of alcoholics.
The fading 3 x 5 card says:
“We have in our head what it takes to be well. We become what we think. Whatever I choose to believe becomes true for me. Forgiveness is the answer to almost everything. Love is always the answer to healing of any sort, and the pathway to love is forgiveness.”
Thanks for coming, Mom. I love you and still miss you. Oh, and happy Mother’s Day! Sorry I was late with your “card”. Some things never change, huh?