Five years ago tomorrow my mother's story came to an end.
A brilliant, beautiful, colorful, funny, loving, caring, sentimental, and sometimes harrowing story had a period put on the last sentence. Its pages were counted. Its spine bound and its place found on the shelf among those written by the world's countless souls lucky enough to breath the earth's infinite air.
It was a sad day for sure. I've written about it and I've talked about it. I've composed music with its influence present. And it's a day I won't willingly ever forget.
But to me right now that day on January 11, 2007--smack dab in the middle of the second week of the new year--could have been in 1985 it seems so long ago.
And that's not to say that her presence isn't in my recent memory. Far from it. I feel her with me always and her impact on me is lifelong.
No, what I mean to say is that that time of my life feels so distant from where I sit today. The hazy head filled with a pharmacy's inventory of bulging white bottles and a liquor store's worth of Grey Goose gift sets doesn't even seem like a life I remember living. And this is both a good thing and sometimes slightly troublesome. I don't really want to brood over it all, but I also don't want to put it too far on the back of the shelf for fear that I might mistake myself for someone who doesn't have a problem.
Because this guy right here? This guy has problems.
She was well aware of my issues: my police record (most of it), my favorite beer, liquor, class of substance, injuries (most of them), debts, and jobs past present and about-to-be-fired from.
We were quite candid with each other. It was easy talking to her and she was open with me about her issues. Nobody's perfect, as they say, and my mother certainly had a few cracks in the veneer.
But this lovely lady who had never seen her one and only child really get a handle on his issues had faith.
She had hope.
And she put in a stipulation in her will that kept her half of the house she shared with her sister out of my hands . . . until five years after her death.
As in tomorrow.
She had enough confidence that I would get my proverbial shit together after five years without her that she made it official and binding but with nothing contingent on it other than I stay alive.
It would happen. She was sure of it. I would come to my senses. Eventually. In my forties.
This kid would probably wreck himself for a good long time doing the usual or worse. I would probably get arrested, get bailed out, go to court, pay my debt to society (preferably in dollars and cents and not time in jail) and mope around for a good long time until I hit forty and then, God willing, the sands of time and the wrinkles on my face would lead me to a realization that there was more to life than all that junk.
The clouds would clear, the sun would pour through and I would sober up. And by the time I was forty one I would be ready to handle that which is her half of her estate and the house that she loved and shared with my aunt for over ten years.
But she had no idea that my aunt was next to go in a shockingly short sixteen months.
Nobody could have predicted that.
And nobody could have predicted that it wouldn't take five years for me to get my proverbial shit together. That it would be just shy of a year from her last day on earth for me to get in real trouble, get out of real trouble and take on this world without my usual vices and excuses for the first time since I was fifteen. Hell, my aunt even lived long enough to see that seed planted. It's probably one of the contributing factors to why I have done so well for so long. She was around for my last hangover, and needless to say that milestone can't be repeated if there were to be an impasse.
Though I can't predict the future, I can assess my strengths and weaknesses and come to an understanding that right now I am stronger than I ever thought I could be in mind, body and spirit. I hope what I've learned and what I've gained in insight and awareness is not far from reach when this world deals me an unexpected blow, as life tends to do.
And just like I will be marking five years of Judith Ann Johnson's absence from this mortal world I also just marked a milestone of my own. I just celebrated--with a nice glass of sparkling cider--four years of alcohol abstinence on December 27.
Nobody could have predicted that.
And the time goes on and we go about our days. I run around like a nut trying to keep my little world tidy and neat. I try to find a place for everything. A folder for receipts, a box for pictures from 1972, a container for extension cords, a bag for bubble wrap, an envelope of stamps, a hard drive full of pictures. My calendar fills up with the usual important dates of birthdays and anniversaries. The countless rehearsals, gigs, recording sessions, dental cleanings, therapist appointments, dry cleaning pickups, and other myriad time-sensitive markers get scribbled in my atrocious hen scratch (as my mom would say) and the calendar gets bent and torn, greasy and smeared. It's what happens when it gets used. And thank goodness it is getting used and I have this luxury of time, however long it lasts.
The tenth of every month is special because that was the day of the month that Jodi and I had our first date. A month from today we'll celebrate being together for three years.
Nobody could have predicted that.
And so it goes.
My mother took hundred if not thousands of pictures of me throughout my life. And when she got a good one she would make several copies. I know this from experience from seeing them when I was growing up. But I also know this from being the sole owner of hundreds of envelopes of photos from the house that I'll own in a matter of forty-five minutes. Seeing how many copies she made of the pictures she liked in an envelope makes me wonder how many were sent out. I'm sure more than I could ever guess.
One picture she never did get to see of me is my mug shot. I've been pretty public about it. It's on the homepage to this blog. I never did make copies of it but I guess in this age of digital photos you merely need to attach it to an email and it can be in ten million inboxes in a matter of seconds.
Well, Jodi took a picture of me the other day. I posted it on my Facebook wall and somebody made a comment that it looked like a "happy mug shot."
It was a comment that was made on the picture that she took on December 27th, 2011.
And I guess I just had to put the two mismatched bookends together.
How's about that?
The kid got his proverbial shit together after all.
This one's for you, momma.
I know you would be proud of me.
I know you always could see it.
I know you never blamed yourself.
I know you always knew I wanted this life.
I know you never gave up on me.
And that's something I could have definitely predicted.
Thanks for reading.
PS: As of January 11, 2012 I will be able to finally make a posthumous dream come true for my mom and aunt. I will be able to donate a parcel of land from the house they owned to the local land trust. It is to be preserved--as was their wishes--for the flora and fauna that gave them so much happiness.
See ma? I'm taking care of business. Finally.
For Judith Ann Johnson.
I love you. I miss you. I will see you again someday.