Monday, January 10, 2022

Day five thousand one hundred and twenty four . . . Predecessors To Hope.

It's a shame I can't remember much.

As I get older and more of my friends start to lose loved ones, I often say the same thing. I tell them that my most profound regret is that I lacked a clear mind to appreciate and remember the time I spent with my mother at the end of her life. I tell them I hope there is a way they can be present in the moments that allow visitors. I try to express this in as few words as possible because my words are not what these people need to hear. 

But I tell them anyway because I feel I have to. And because most people are kind and do what society expects of them, they say "thank you for your kindness" and go on with their process.

Today, in the part of the world where I live, it is January 11, 2022, meaning my mother has been gone from this earth for fifteen years. 

I have no idea how this time has passed under my feet and through my hands. Time is so elusive to me--so bratty and selfish some days; hopeful, slaphappy, and aloof others, rigid, unyielding, acrimonious, and ultimately artificial, transparent, and mainly for show.   

Humans created the clock and the calendar. The rest of life on planet earth just goes about its day, though I'm guessing it wouldn't use that word. 

If you look around you, most people have agreed to it--whether because they have to or because it makes sense. Some people in far-off places probably use their own system to keep track of time. We hear about some of these areas now and then but only when comparing how the modern world exists, and, of course, the modern world is the one we want to live in, right? Maybe. Maybe not. 

I live in Japan--fourteen hours ahead of where I come from for half of the year. It will only be thirteen hours when daylight saving time comes around again because Japan doesn't adhere to that antiquated tradition. But then again, neither does Arizona. Go figure. 

So see, what does it all really mean, anyway? 

But my mother. My poor, selfless mother. She did what she could with me, instilling a sense of self-worth and pride in hard work. She spent more than half of her life as a teacher in Fall River, Massachusetts, somewhere that was never quite famous for its feel-good headlines. 

I remember saying to her and my aunt (also a teacher) that I would never be a teacher. My days would not be spent explaining to people much younger than myself how to do something I couldn't. I recoiled from the prospect of regurgitating facts and figures in hopes that kids with minds drunk with options like mine once was might have the wherewithal to pause and listen. 

My path was going to be paved with gold records and fine, Corinthian leather. I was going to be a rock star . . . or at the very least, I was going to make my living in music and leave the "real work" to the rest of the world. 

That was the plan for the first thirty-odd years anyway. Many of those were spent slugging it out on the road, playing hundreds of shows a year across the country and abroad. Hours upon hours of writing, recording, promoting, bullshitting, begging, and borrowing. It may not have been 9-5, but I can assure you it was "real work," and I know it shaved years off my life. Hopefully, there was already going to be a surplus. 

It shows that one can make a to-do list, but it's really just your to-do list at the end of the day.

So I did a bunch of stuff, and now I'm 51, living in Asia. By the time my mom was 51 (in 1992), I had been living in Western Massachusetts for a year (at 22) and beginning the second phase of my life, just far enough away from my family so that a surprise visit wasn't really on the table, but far enough so they wouldn't be my one phone call. 

She would live only fourteen more years and die at the age of 65, not having seen her son living without alcohol since his teenage years. 

But I celebrated that many years of sobriety on December 27 on vacation from my job as--yes, you guessed it--a teacher. 

Three days a week, I teach English to kids as young as three and adults older than myself. One day a week, I even teach guitar. And guess what else? I actually kind of like it. It's not slugging it out in the Fall River school system or even close to how hard my wife works Monday through Friday 8:30-4:30, but it's a real job, and I seem to be making an actual difference in people's lives.

See, nobody prepares you for the addictiveness of acceptance. 

And really, acceptance is a byproduct of rejection--or at least that's how it would stand to reason in a healthy mind. But once I started to accept things instead of fighting them, life took on new meaning. And I don't mean accepting I had a problem with alcohol. That was life-or-death. No, I mean just realizing that these expectations are only in our heads. And if we can create them, then it stands to reason we can dismantle them. And once you realize that doing away with an expectation is as easy as blowing out a candle, it can become a great tool to keep one's sanity. 

This isn't to say that there's no price to pay. 

My wife dislikes the smell of a blown-out candle. I'll never understand this because blown-out candles always remind me of birthdays, and I love birthdays. But there is indeed an odor, and there is smoke. So yes, there can be regrets that come from dissolved expectations. 

And this is precisely why one must take care when making them in the first place. 

So yeah, as you can probably tell, I'm a little out of sorts today. 

I wish I remembered more of what my mom said to me growing up. I regret not recording some of our random day-to-day conversations. I have some phone messages, which will have to do. 

I wish I could feel how my head felt in her lap, my ear against her belly, staring at the ceiling. 

I wish the dog would jump on top of us, fighting for attention and getting it. 

I wish I could taste her food again--or even just watch that pat of butter melt into green peas on the stove--her stove--her happiness contraption.

I wish I could hear her voice sing to me again, soft and low. 

I wish I could again feel how she hugged me--as if she was saving me from falling off a cliff. 

I wish I had visited more. 

I wish I had made her cry less--especially all the times I never knew about. 

I wish I had been a better son when less was on the line.

I wish. 

But I also accept.

I accept that these are wishes. And wishes are predecessors to hope. 

As for hope. Hope, I will have, no matter what. 

Please--somebody, anybody--remind me to read this if someday I seem to have forgotten I ever said it. 

And if anyone out there who is reading this needs a reason to hope, reach out to me. 

I'm here because I had it when I needed it most.

I love you, mom. But you always knew that. 

Thank you for never giving up your hope in me. 

My love always,