Monday, July 9, 2012

Before There Was Me

Mark & Margaret.  Before there was me, there was them.

I have been much inspired by Viv's post about her dad. She made Ed real for me. She made him a little bit alive again for herself, I think. But since I am compelled by my untrammeled egocentricity to make this blog about Me, Me, Me, this post is not precisely about M & M (Aren't they beautiful over there? Weren't they just cool?) but about what I discovered about them, long after it might have done the three of us any good.

Okay.  Let's give the old Beginner's Mind a shot here.  It appears that parents are -- kind of like Soylent Green -- made of people! And before your eyes glaze over with the absolutely brain-killing obviousness of that statement, just stop for a minute.  Breathe.  It took me about 51 years to get a toe in the water of "Hey. Margaret was a human being."

All my life people told me I was just like her.  She had to live 88 years and die (more than a decade ago) before I could start to realize:

She was just like me.  UhOh.

And Mark?  Forget about it.  He died at 42 when I was not even 2.  He wasn't just an icon.  He was a god.  I was probably six or seven before I realized he was not actually, The "our father who art in heaven."  And the idea that he was "watching over me?"  Not comforting.  In the extreme.

In the dawn of Me History, Mark & Margaret created my universe and placed me at the center of it.  They named the animals. They brought the food.  They made fire.  And gravity.  They set the rules. They told me The Story of Elizabeth Ann and when my father, whose voice I do not remember, "went away?"  Margaret picked up the thread and devised the great Myth of Mark. When I say, "Myth," I don't mean to suggest it was untrue.  It's a Joseph Campbell thing.  And a lovely myth.  But it wasn't Mark.  Any more than my Myth of Margaret was Margaret. 

So I'm loading the dishwasher yesterday.  And making a lot of judgments about how I'm doing it and wondering if I should be doing something else, something better, something more ... worthwhile right then.  Such as a Good Person would do. The kind of person who would not be unexpectedly crushed by the universe as punishment for Something. And experiencing the miasma-like, hypnotic and overly-familiar little tune that plays, with all its variations of theme, in my head pretty much all the time.  "Ah, maybe you're just lazy. Are you lazy?"

And There. She. Is.

Should I blame her for that?  NuhUh.  If your parents abused you in ways that were truly cruel and you blame them for that, you're completely entitled. 

But if they screwed up?  If they gave you Life Rules that weren't much help or messed you over in major ways?  If you hear their voices saying things that don't do you a bit of good?  If you can point to a number of occasions when they were just TERRIBLE PARENTS?  Cut them a break.

Forgive them.  And while you're at it, if you're a parent and, actually, even if you're not, forgive yourself.  Just a little bit.  You came out of the darkness into the light.  You had about 15 minutes to figure the world out. And then you were on your own.  Your parents (who'd had that exact same experience a shockingly few years before) tried to keep you safe and make you good and love you to the best of their ability which never, never expressed the frantic passion of adoration and fear that was in their hearts for you most of the time.  Those folks?  Forgive them.  Love them.  Love their memory.

Try to know them for a minute. See them.  Recognize them not as gods, but as you. But exactly.  Confused. Scared.  Pissed off.  Awkward. Having a bad hair day.  Hating their boss.  Destroyed, almost obliterated, by an unexpected death and another and another.  Hungry.  Weak.  Forgetful.  Capable of  well-intentioned mistakes, inexplicable bad moods, unbelievable carelessness, fully-intended anger and general meanness.

Also, figure that, like you -- and definitely like me -- they were probably driving through an intersection, trying to make the light and not kill someone, when you asked them what f**k meant. Because that pretty much sums parenting up for me. Human. And conducted most of the time on the fly, ineptly, and without even a speck of parental wisdom.  At the point in a child's life when the parent was, to all intents and purposes, God.  Or Goddess, as the case may be.

So, Mark & Margaret. Look at you two.  The more I know about me, the more I understand about you.  And the more I understand about you the more my heart just breaks open to everything you have always been for me. Because parents -- though human -- are the people in your life no one else will ever be.

I had no idea who you really were.  Probably still don't.

You are more beautiful and mysterious than I could ever have imagined.

I wish I could sit us down and tell you that.

Then you could tell me to vote for Mitt Romney and how I should do my hair.

And, Margaret?  Remember how you always said, "One of these days you'll understand. I wish I could be there."

Today's the day.  And me, too.

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