Memoir

Marilyn

Her face was no longer the young vibrant face I remembered. If her age was revealed, one would be surprised. Her lips lay closed. Her eyes lay without wrinkle. Her hands laid across her stomach covered in the finest native jewelry. Irony at it’s finest. She was dressed in a traditional Navajo dress. One with calm colors that brought the complexion of her skin to light. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen her in such a beautiful manner. Everyone around me spoke in Navajo. Every now and then I would catch a word that I knew and try to figure out the rest. Was it nice? Was it bad? Sometimes I just didn’t care. All that kept crossing my mind is now I know where she is or where she will be. Was that bad? Knowing that your mom is in a grave and not out doing God knows what… For once I had an answer for people when they asked where my mom was…Dead. 

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I had just arrived back at home after a long day of school. I was attending classes at the local college which was 30 minutes away. I started unloading my car of all my bags and books when my dad had greeted me at the door. My dad waiting to hear about my day helped me with my bags. My dad was always involved in everything and loved to hear about my day whether it was interesting or not. As I sat in the dining room eating dinner, the phone rang. My dad answered. He seemed a bit surprised. He looked at me and then back down at the paper he was writing on. He began asking questions about how it happened. Instantly I knew. I knew that this was the phone call I had been waiting for years to receive. 

After several minutes on the phone my dad hung up. He looked at me. Then he gave me a faint smile that quickly disappeared into a saddened face. He told me that my mom had passed away. All I could say at that very moment was, “ I know.” He said that my mom had died by herself in a hotel room. Medical Diagnosis: Cirrhosis of the Liver. I carried on as if I didn’t care which I really didn’t. I cleaned up my dinner plate and went to my room. I sat down on my bed and began to do my homework. I didn’t know how I was suppose to feel. I had nothing. The news came as if I expected it too. It was strange hearing the words, “your mom passed away” and not feel an ounce of remorse. This woman was my mother, yet she was a stranger.

About an hour after the phone call, my dad came in to check on me. He asked me all the usual questions after one receive such news. I told him I was fine and that I just didn’t know her anymore. He seemed a bit saddened. I don’t blame him. He was married to her at one point and she was the mother of his child. So it didn’t surprise me that he was just a bit taken back. I, however, was still confused.

Several days later the funeral arrangements were under way and the date of the funeral had been set. I made up my mind at the last minute that I would attend the funeral. I felt it was best to get some “closure.” Closure…such a meaningless word. I wasn’t sure if it was closure I was looking for or was I searching for unanswered questions. I felt I was walking into my past with family that had little interest in knowing how I was doing. 

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I went to class the morning of the funeral. I didn’t pay much attention what was going on. There were students talking. The professor was setting up her lessons for the day. I just sat and stared out the window watching students get out of their cars. An overwhelming feeling of nervousness came over me as the minutes ticked away. When class was over the time had come for me to attend the funeral. 

The funeral home was only a few miles from the campus. I knew I would be there earlier than anticipated. I sat in the car wondering if I was doing the right thing. I called my husband just to talk secretly hoping he would be helpful, but at this point I don’t even remember what he told me. The cars started showing up and began slowly filling up the parking lot. I got out of the car and began slowly walking to the door. My heart was beating so fast. I opened the door.

Opening the door meant I was accepting the fact that my mother was gone. It I was about to see family members I hadn’t seen since I was a child. It also meant I was allowing myself to be even more confused than I had ever been.

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The funeral was a mixture of feelings that cannot be explained. I felt that I had traveled back in time. I half expected my mother to wake up at any moment just to make me feel guilty. Guilty for what you may ask? I’m not sure. I ask myself that very question. But, it’s the feeling my mother always gave me when I saw her. I’m not sure if it was her way of expressing her own guilt onto me, but the feeling was always unpleasant. The other half of me expected me to feel anger. Anger at the fact that she is gone forever. Never to explain… Explain her decisions. Explain her thoughts. Explain her betrayal. Explain why her children had to grow up not knowing their own mother…Explain to me why instead of celebrating a mother I am celebrating a father. Explain to me why my mother will always and forever be a stranger to me.

My mother is dead.

And I no longer have to wonder where she has been, where she is at, or where she is going.

For she gave me something that took me a long time to understand.

She gave me strength.

Strength to let her go.

She gave me confidence.

Confidence to believe in myself.

She gave me love.

Allowing me to love and be loved.

She gave me life.

By letting me go and allowing someone else to care for me.

That is what she left me.

I no longer hold resentment. I no longer question her decisions. I no longer wonder what if’s.

Instead I thank her.

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I thank her for allowing me the life that every child deserves. It takes a lot of courage and strength to let go of your children. Allowing someone else to fill the role that was meant for her. She was a woman with questionable decisions, but I also believe she was a woman with a big heart. Mother’s always try to do what’s best for their children. Sometimes as children we don’t see the bigger picture. We only see the here and now. We tend to use that as our excuse. We play victim. I am guilty of it. That’s exactly what I did for so many years. Now that I am older I see that if she didn’t allow herself to let go, I wouldn’t be here. It’s funny how that works. As we grow up and mature into adults our perspectives begin to change. It’s like we begin to see what our parents saw when we were children. I never realize how hard it is to be a parent let a lot a mother. I always told myself that I never wanted to have children because I was afraid of failing them. But, she didn’t fail me. She did an honorable thing. For that is something I can respect. I hope this blog post finds someone that is in need of comforting words of a lost parent that made questionable decisions. Although stories maybe different, surely there is a deeper root for each and one of you.

With Love,

Alyssa 

In loving memory of Marilyn Scott Tennison Woody.

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