Thursday, August 06, 2020

Carole Ann Moses, June 30, 1947-July 21, 2020

The above is a picture of my mother pregnant with me. She died early in the morning a few weeks ago, and I feel like I'd need to be a way better writer than I am to get my jumbled thoughts in order, but I can't say nothing about it. We knew it was coming, but it was unexpectedly sudden. She had been diagnosed with terminal cancer back in October; we were able to be sort of in denial about it for a while, but by the end, she was totally helpless and needed constant care. The cancer, it should be noted, was aided and abetted by the Parkinson’s that she'd been living with for the past fifteen-odd years, so she was more or less immobilized even before the cancer diagnosis. When I say that I bitterly regret that her time had come, the "regret" applies to her having developed the Parkinson's and cancer in the first place. Given that she had done these things, it was clearly a mercy for it to end when it did rather than drag on for another few painful months. My brothers had been here to visit before she died; the second of them left on Sunday evening, and Tuesday morning it was over. My dad, her widower, theorizes--and this seems extremely plausible--that she was holding on while they were here, and after, she just let go.

Every such situation is both the same and different. I think the fact that she was gradually deteriorating over a long time made it...well, I don't want to say easier, but definitely different than a sudden death of a seemingly healthy person would have been. In some sense, we were all mourning the event long before it actually happened. I don't think that makes the grief less, but it probably does make it such that it doesn't all come crashing down on you at once. I'm doing okay. I break down sobbing occasionally--and god knows, the fact that this happened in the midst of everything else didn't make it any easier. But I'm functioning.

She was an English professor at a local university for some twenty-five years (and she's definitely a big part of where my love for literature came from).  One of the most painful things for me to contemplate is that she'd almost certainly STILL be a professor if she hadn't been struck down. She had to retire some seven or eight years ago when the Parkinson's just became too much for her to function in that capacity. She had a dream job, was how it always struck me. She was initially hired just to teach composition, but she ended up branching out in ways that most professors don't get to, I think: the university would need someone to teach a given course, and she would just take it, which is how she moved into teaching linguistics, classical lit, Shakespeare/Renaissance, Early American, and probably other things I'm forgetting. Her favorite author was Jane Austen. The fact that she was able to reread Austen's corpus just a week or two before she became unable to read at all gladdens me, in a heartbroken way.

Once when I was...oh, fourteen or fifteen, I suppose, she took me on a daytrip to New York, by bus. I don't know what her specific motivations were; looking back, it seems like it was kind of out of nowhere. She was a native New Yorker, so maybe she just wanted me to see her old stomping grounds; there's also probably simply an aspect of feeling like she wasn't doing enough mother-son stuff with me and wanting to do something. We went to the Bronx Zoo, and we spent a lot of the day in bookstores, which is definitely in retrospect a ridiculous thing to want to do in New York, but it was what I wanted to do, and she did it with me.

(Brief, irrelevant tangent from that trip: there was this guy who was on the bus with us, who was there to see the musical Chicago. I know he was doing this because he very, very repeatedly made the witticism "I came to New York to see Chicago." Who knows why these things stick with you.)

I loved and love her, but it was a little hard, I felt, to get to know her as much as I would've liked, especially as I got older. You have these sort of Hollywood scenarios of children having super-meaningful conversations with their dying parents, but that wasn't really possible with her--or maybe it would have been if I had known the right way to approach it, but who gets that kind of specialized training? If you asked how she was, you could just get a "fine," even in her last days when she manifestly was not fine. But she was always kind of phlegmatic; she just didn't cry at things. It didn't mean she wasn't feeling, but for whatever mixture of psychological reasons no doubt result in large part to her not-super-happy childhood, she didn't express it in ways that most of us do.

She did write, however. I don't think she ever would have self-identified as a "writer," but nonetheless, she did. She published two books, neither of which is likely to be of any great interest to most people:  the first was a version of her doctoral dissertation, and the second a writing textbook which never caught on and which I don't think is even catalogued on amazon. She also published...well, some number of academic papers; I honestly have no idea how many or how I'd find out.

But that's not the important part for my purposes here. She also did more personal writing: when I and my brothers were small, she kept journals about each of us, our development, what we were doing. I actually came out ahead of my brothers on the deal, being the oldest; she actually wrote <i>two</i> books about me, one containing minute details of my infancy and the other charting the usual childhood stuff. But also: during the last, oh, let's say eight years of her life, before she became unable to write, she wrote a fair few short personal essays and poems--all told, some twenty thousand words' worth; about eighty-five manuscript pages. This material is valuable to me because it lets me see aspects of her that were largely invisible in person. Reading through them is an excellent way for me to set myself off on a crying jag. They also, let's be fair, are probably of limited interest to anyone who didn't know her, but in tribute to her, I'm going to put them online here over the course of, I don't know, the next several months or so, along with photographs and commentary where appropriate. This is something I can do.

I don't feel that this entry is adequate, but with that mindset I'm never going to say ANYTHING. More if it occurs to me. You talk about these things, and you do your best to process them, but there's just this core of raw grief that there's no way to get around which I'm feeling right now. All I can say is: I love and miss you very much, mom, and I will always love you.


Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Sorry to hear that. People say this about a lot of things, but here I think it is truly hard to ever 'feel the same' again. One only hopes that one can become 'better' in some way, whatever that means, but one's perception of the world certainly changes.

"This is just a place: the reality we agree with, that agrees with us, outbounding this, arrives to touch, joining with us from far away: our home which defines us is elsewhere but not so far away we have forgotten it: this is just a place."


12:57 PM  
Blogger GeoX, who is here to stay, like it or not. pontificated to the effect that...

Thank you for that.

11:16 PM  

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