When You Lose Your Best Reader… Words Fail

I loved playing tourist with my mom. Traveling was our thing and I loved that I got to show her so many places she really wanted to to see.

I loved playing tourist with my mom. Traveling was our thing and I loved that I got to show her so many places she really wanted to see. This was taking by our handsome cab driver in Central Park, New York City 2001.

It’s been a rough month and I am finding it harder and harder to express any of it and what it means to me, and I find that unacceptable.

Me, who spends all her free time spinning tales, who used to easily pluck words and thoughts from that magical place that writers get serendipitous access to from time to time. I’ve found words with ease to make people laugh, to cry or to maybe think. Now when I need them for no one but myself, that magical well has dried up and I can’t find the words.

And some of it is because I don’t work well under pressure, and who really is prepared to write a parent’s obituary? I could have used the space to express so many fine things my mother had done and I could have made it sing. But I didn’t.

Some of it is because of all of my mom’s physical characteristics that she hated about herself and I also despise that I inherited, the thing that my lower lip does when I’m talking and trying not to cry is my least favorite. So, at her memorial, I couldn’t get up in front of her friends and express what a tremendous loss her death was to us all. I couldn’t say anything at all.

For some, grieving in silence, grieving without words to express it is not a big deal. For me it’s all sorts of unsettling. Words are how I make sense of my life.

Wait a minute. No it’s not. I’m not a diarist, a memoir writer, hell, I’m not really even a blogger, I am a storyteller.  I don’t use words to talk about my life. I hold those feelings and thoughts deep inside for years and years and then slowly and unconsciously it comes out in my stories that are sort of, kind of true to some sort of life I lived, but not really. So, I will talk about her when I’m ready. She’ll be in the stories that I write–and maybe the moms in my stories won’t be quite so horrible for a while–maybe.

Haha, now that I think about it, the horrible or absent mom motif that ran through many of my stories was sort of how I dealt with my father’s dying. See, I’ll get through it somehow. Like I always do. In the stories that I tell.

For, really, as much as I give the credit to my father for me being a storyteller–he was my first teacher at how to keep an audience enthralled–it was my mother who was my best reader. Even when I was trying to be a srs bzns writer:Screenshot 2015-03-06 00.31.37 (2)

She was my best reader, not in the American Idol, special snowflake way where I ever got to say, “Well my mom thinks I’m the best, and nothing I do is ever wrong and I can-so carry a tune!” But in the way she read everything I wrote (that I let her read… believe me there are things I wrote that I would NEVER let her read) and was incredibly proud and incredibly honest.

Mom: So, I finally finished your novel…
Me: Yeah?
Mom: Why was there so much sex?
Me: Really, mom? That’s all you have to say?
Mom: No. It was good. Really good. I cried and everything. Only…
Me: Too much sex?

In the way that she believed in me and my crazy dream, while also talking me down to earth from time to time. I used to call her a dream killer when I was young and would tell her the things I wanted to be and she would suggest a more practical alternative. Sometimes you just want to dream big and want to be an astronaut or a best selling author and don’t want to hear the words “flight attendant” or “reporter.” But, it was her voice in my head when I went to register for college and realizing that I was putting myself in a lifetime of debt. It was her in the back of my mind when I found myself signing up for the pre-journalism program and going on to get my degree in that, you know, just in case.

And I don’t regret that for a minute.

But mostly in the way she listened to stories. For the last 15 or so years, I have lived on the other side of the country from my family, but at least once or twice a year I’d go and visit. At least once on each of these trips, my sister and I would take my mom out for the day. About half way through the day, my sister and I would realize that we were doing all the talking and my mom was just sitting there looking oddly content.

I remember we asked her once what she was smiling about and she just smiled wider. “I like hearing you two tell each other your stories.” And she did. Thinking about it now, it was probably the reason my parents got along so well. Every storyteller needs their appreciative audience. She was that to both my father and me.

And while I’m not sure I believe in an after life, there is a part of me that relieves the pain of losing my best reader, by imagining that now my father has his back. Oh, imagine the stories he’s collected for her! <3


4 thoughts on “When You Lose Your Best Reader… Words Fail

  1. Jules

    Sniff sniff. I didn’t need my heart anyway, it’s fine.

    If I had any words of wisdom I’d add them, but I’m sure you’ll come up with your own when you’re ready.


  2. Anna

    That was probably the most beautiful, heart filled, loving, honest, and tear jerking tribute I’ve ever read. You truly have a gift as a writer- but you really are one special lady. I’m so sorry you lost your Mom…..losing a parent is pain only one who has experienced can identify with…..it’s a heartbreak on so many levels. She is now proudly smiling down upon you anxious to read more of your gifts ……just from a different location. Sending you hugs…..love you and miss you. Anna

  3. Lynn Hughes

    Oh sweet I admire the fact that you and Rose can place wonderful words and comfort down for others to draw from. I seem to loose between brain and hand so I do better face to face, with hugs and just standing with the people that just need to talk so I guess I am like Judy a listener.

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