Detail of My Mother Many Years Before She Killed Herself
This photo was taken before she knew me. Before I was born. It was taken by her first husband, Ralph. I don’t think she’d been in the hospital yet.
I think she looks very beautiful. My eye first goes to the shadow under her chin and the way the light falls on the curve that leads from the top of her shoulder to the straight part of her neck.
I wish she was looking at me. I mean, I wish she was looking at the camera. I don’t have any photos of her looking at the camera. I don’t actually have any photos of us together at all. There’s one I remember where she’s in bed right after I’m born and her hair is really long and she’s holding me and sort of looking like she’s not sure. Her two cats are lying on either side of her. I lost the photo years ago.
I think she kind of looks like a hawk in this photo.
This is before she lost all her teeth. We used to sleep in twin beds on opposite sides of her bedroom in her mother’s house. At some point she began taking her teeth out before bed, which is when I realized she didn’t have her own teeth anymore. It made me uncomfortable.
I’ve never really noticed her ear before, which is crazy because it’s kind of big and makes me smile. We never knew each other that way. I don’t ever remember touching her. One night she came into my dark room and said, “I just want to hold you.” The next morning the man she lived with said he was taking me home ten days early.
But gosh, look at that ear! I’d like to be able to say to her, “You have big ears” and then both of us would laugh because we know she’s super pretty. I’m touching my own ear now. It’s bigger than I remember and I’m smiling.
Once she wrote me a letter saying it would be okay to have glasses but she knew how hard it must be to be the only bespectacled kid in my class. Bespectacled. What a word.
Once we sat on the couch in her mother’s living room and she said, “No one will ever trust you with eyes that shake like that.”
This is before she took too many pills and her mother had her stepfather drive her to the hospital in the trunk of his Cadillac so the neighbors wouldn’t see.
My mother’s name was Diane Jule Daw. If I ever had a boy I’d like to make his middle name Jule. I think it’s beautiful for a boy. I’m not sure about a girl.
It had been a good day. We’d gone to Ben Franklin and then come home and she made Dinty Moore stew from the can. I loved it. The way the beef just fell apart and how soft the potatoes were. We didn’t eat it at home. I’d gone into my grandparents’ cold closet to look for it but the closest I came was Campbell’s Chunky Beef Stew. It wasn’t the same. I’d sit at the kitchen table while she cooked it, letting the smell fill my nostrils. “Can we have it tomorrow, too?” She always said yes. I should be able to explain how intimate it felt for her to say yes but I can’t. All I can say is I’d imagine the next night with us sitting there and I’d feel so safe somehow. “Do you want bread?” I did. Crusty rolls or usually soft white slices. I’d tear off a piece and dip it in the sauce and let it soak like a sponge. “This is really good, Mom. I like this so much.”
This photo was taken before that.
I found out about my mother being put in the trunk of the Cadillac from my grandmother’s neighbor after my grandmother died. The neighbor said my grandmother told her once when she was drunk. I don’t know if my mom knew that story. She lived that time. That was a few years before she killed herself.
The last time I saw her I said, “I want to be friends but I can’t let you touch me. And I don’t want to call you mom anymore.”
This is before she had a daughter who said that to her. We were at Friendly’s and she said, “I think that makes sense. Absolutely.” And then she drove me home and I never saw her again.
Today I read an article that talked about “Self-murder” and “Self-slaughter.” I think there was something about selfishness.
Dinty Moore is great to eat when you have no teeth because it tastes really good and you don’t have to chew it. It’s cheaper than dog food if you add water and make it last over three or four days.
Look at her.
I can’t find the tape she sent me of ocean sounds. We used to listen to it before bed. Of all the things I wish I hadn’t lost, that’s the one that kills me. Stupid ocean. Making me miss you.
This photo was taken before my mother killed herself. Before I read an article that said people who kill themselves hurt everyone around them.
It hurt when my mother killed herself. Which is not the same thing as saying my mother hurt me. As far as I can recall my mother never laid a hand on me in anger.