Newton’s Cradle, Boomerang, Whatever…

Several times this past week, walking Leonard at night or in the morning, I catch myself in a discussion with my mother. Then I remember: she’s dead. The realization isn’t a moment of sorrow, but absurdity. I am rehearsing for a moment that will never be, a closure that I will never have.

B. gave me a drawing by Story People: “If you hold onto the handle, she said, it’s easier to maintain the illusion of control.” This image is a person clinging to a kind of oar. “It’s more fun if you just let the wind carry you.”

When I catch myself in the discussion, I mentally release my grip, one finger at a time, from the weird fantasy I have had all these years: this running inner dialogue that has become a kind of subconscious tick. Maybe even a kind of hopeful prayer? Against all conscious logic, the conscious acceptance of the situation of the past 30-odd years.

It’s over. It’s never over. I open my hand again to drop the practice, like a prayer bead, like an oar. Only to find it in my hand again.

Maybe this is the underlying conflict/drama in all of our lives: the continuous grasping and letting go. Against our needy, animal nature. Against our cold, intellectual plans.

Newton’s cradle.

I have told myself that once she was dead, I would write a memoir. But I’m suddenly unsure. Unsure of the why of it.

I never wanted the last word.

I wanted the last word to be hers. To be: I’m sorry. Not pity, but acknowledgement and remorse.

Because remorse would entail something of love.


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  1. I understand this type relationship thing with a mother… that was never close. In my case..downright cruel. She just died this past October 2021. She was close to her sisters and brothers…but never to her children, especially me. I’ll never understand her, and as for me…I don’t have closure either. I have conversations in my head with her, but it’s tremendously negative. All the thoughts…

    I’m going to live my life now and make damn sure, as far as it depends on me…that my children won’t feel this hole. Self awareness has led me down a path of forgiving myself and perhaps even loving myself for trying to be a good person in spite of it all. You wouldn’t believe the things I filled an empty hole with, where my parents love should have been, but wasn’t. The destructive things…

    Ren…you helped me (a much older woman than you, btw) tonight as I read your essay. We have a kindredness as we walk under the same moon. I understand the grief and I find I have no problem helping others with similar backgrounds. Something I perhaps wouldn’t have had the capacity for if it hadn’t been for my parents. And that is the good I’ve decided came of my younger life. I’m sure there are many thousands of us. Reading Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. helped me further, in addition to my Biblical knowledge.

    Peace to you dear Ren. I like you more and more as I learn about your life and experiences through your writings. Such a beautiful, talented and may I add brave young woman you are. The book ‘IMPERMANENCE’ … is one of my favorites.

    • Because you are a writer, I know that you know how much this means to me. And it means all the more that you took the time to write this. Frankl’s book is so wonderful, and maybe something it is time for me to return to. It seems to be in the wind much lately and that usually is a kind of gift when I take it. The Bible is fraught with memories for me but I follow a middle way in all things. Or try to <3 We help one another always. Thank you!

  2. Ren,

    This is absolutely brilliant and heart-wrenching, and honest, and true.

    One still outstanding task from my 18 months of therapy is to write my dead father a letter telling him I’m finally free of his emotional abuse and tyranny whilst still being able to appreciate the few good things he did. I often wonder if my failure, 15 months down the line from therapy, is due to the same things you write about here – that I wanted him to say sorry, that I am still afraid of cutting the last of the bonds between father and son.

    Thank you for articulating this so well and helping me on this dark morning.