Mother Blue

I photo. I take day trips. I lightsaber battle. I analyze the stuffing out of myself.

Category: Mother

40 on 20, a Short Epilogue to the Epilogue

I don’t usually write two blog entries this close together (see Friday’s prologue, 40 on 20), but yesterday turned out to be an epilogue to the epilogue.

• • •

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Her tree on the hillside.

We took so many wrong turns yesterday. My mother’s grave is located in one of the three cemeteries of three different sister churches in my hometown. I get lost every time I try to visit. I called my brother in semi despair. I even texted him photos of my location. “That does not look familiar at all, Kimmy.”

He kindly offered to meet me. I gently declined his offer. I was determined to find her grave on my own. I don’t go to the cemetery all that often. I have always felt that the presence of someone who was buried just simply no longer existed — in the ground quickly then out into the universe. But this being the 20th year, I felt compelled to commemorate.

After about 45 minutes of searching, I was both laughing and grimacing at the frustration of not finding my mother’s grave. I walked to the spot where I was sure she was buried. “Do they move graves here? Maybe they moved her grave.” Jack was trying to lighten the situation. We were stressed. I was a little argumentative and tense.

I got back in the car and said to Dave, “I think she is screwing with me. I know that she was buried near these damn trees!” There were far more explicatives in my rant than the few I am documenting here.

We asked for directions. We got quick answers from mourners who really just wanted to mourn. Dave suggested one more turn. And there it was. The right cemetery on a road perpendicular to the road we were just on. My brother said to “look to the edges of the road and you will find her.” After a little walk, I came upon it. I sat down in front of her name and my family left me alone with my thoughts. I started to take photos of all the things around me. I wouldn’t look directly at her grave at first. I went to switch lenses and something made me stop busying myself with tasks. I started to cry. I didn’t expect to. I think the idea of a person frozen in time got to me.

Jack wandered over next to me and sat down. He was curious about the tombstones around me. We talked about the various engravings and made a few lighthearted jokes. He was fascinated by a telephone etching on the stone behind my mother’s. I left Jack and sat behind her stone and began to talk to Dave for a few moments. Jack laid down and rested his head on his grandmother’s tombstone. He was looking at nature and the tree in front of her, much resembling the way he watches “Spongebob” or some other random TV program.

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Sitting. Thinking. Watching.

I harbor no illusion that he somehow felt some sort of deep bond with her in that moment. He never knew her, except through my stories and his questions. I think it was Jack just being Jack, a nine year old boy. I did say, “well, here is your grandma.” Without missing a beat, he yelled into the tombstone, “Hey, Grandma!!!!!!” It was more for a laugh than anything else. It made me smile. We don’t get to hear him say the word grandma all that often.

I decided to lie down next to him, mimicking his pose. My Madonna moment, I thought. Dave snapped a picture. Jack and I chatted and laughed about the bird poop that might be in our hairs from lying on the less than pristine granite. I didn’t realize Dave was still taking photos when he captured our embrace.

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Our Madonna moment.

Candid embrace.

Candid embrace.

We went to Jim’s Drive-In. One of my favorite treats from when we were growing up. Burgers and dogs and homemade sauce. It didn’t taste exactly the same as I had remembered. We later drank some wine that had been saved from 1994. Table wine really doesn’t keep well. It tasted like Easter egg dye and salad dressing. So many things had changed. It was time to move forward.

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Jim’s Drive-In

 

 

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Pathos

Wired Intersection (cell phone pic)

Wired Intersection (cell phone pic)

My inner monologue was spastically riffing…

They shut off my water this morning. My hands feel so incredibly dirty. Germal colonies are setting up camp on my palms. I have spent the day Lysol-ing all the present and future surfaces I have or may touch. I need disposable gloves and a nap.

I can’t concentrate without water. I can’t help but obsess over the notion of anything being removed from my life or my general convenience. This whole thing began with a gas leak in February. Three months later my street still lacks infrastructure and functioning sidewalks. Each local gas company has to repair their own lines, every water company has to follow suit. New construction type vehicles arrive biweekly. What started out as a patch job has now become days filled with gas fume hallucinations, vibrating furniture from the constant jackhammering, and gravelled sidewalks by the same result.

My inner voice is that of a middle-aged man. I am not really sure why.

Water Rations. (cell phone pics)

Water Rations. (cell phone pics)

• • •

Pathos: Pathetic lump of emotions

The stockpile of words I use in my everyday life is staggeringly limited. PATHOS is one of those words I once learned a very long time ago, probably for some English lit exam, but then I carelessly shoved it into the recesses of my brain once it outlived my 16-year-old self’s usefulness. I have been obsessing over this word as of late, much like I am obsessing over my disgusting hands. I am typing this entry with the tip of my fingernail, just to keep the molecules of degenerate filth at bay.

I came across this gorgeous sentence: “oddball art-house flights of fancy, verite sex scenes and lump-in-throat moments of pathos. It’s funny almost as an after-thought.

My newfound obsession with pathos came after watching this.

It made me stop. Simple words of unrequited love delivered by an everyman. This show wasn’t what I expected at all: If you haven’t seen this show and you love cinema and great storytelling and humanity, I urge you to watch “Louie”. Check out this scene as well.

But there it was. Pathos. The revelation of that word was like lightning rod of everything for me. The road that I have been traveling for so long, my weirdness, my quirkiness, my obsessions, my neurosis all of a sudden made sense. I have been journeying so long and so far trying to figure out just who the heck I am in waves of enlightenment, comparisons to other individuals, and epic inner narratives. If I could be something intangible I would probably be pathos. I long for pathos. I lust for pathos. Pathos is my life projection through color televisions with emotive filters. At its very best, it appeals to a selected audience’s emotions; at its very worst, it can meander in rhetoric and pathetic inclinations. For me, it simply means the raw, unmuddied yet abridged version of the emotion in a moment. It’s like a capturing a photograph.

• • •

Bird on a Wire (cell phone pic)

Bird on a Wire (cell phone pic)

I love documentaries. My digital movie queue is filled with at least 50 of them, just waiting to be watched. Just Like Being There was at the top of the list. Focused on the artists behind the “gig poster scene,” this doc was a feast of illustrative screen printed gorgeousness set to an indie music soundtrack. Very inspiring watch, but I found myself wondering in my head and then later aloud, “does the type of music we listen to determine or predict our intellect or intellectual capacity?” The artists represented in the doc were not just emotive beings, they were what I would call skilled technicians whose thinking lies on a different intellectual plane. I love music, but my musical tastes merely skim the surfaces of most genres. I listen intently to what is laid out before me, but I always find that when left to my own devices my choices are uncomplicated. I want an emotional journey filled with crescendos. I found myself wondering if the way I think is too simple, too mainstream, too surface, too rooted in emotion, or in the consumptive nature of the masses.

Maybe I am mostly comprised of emotion. My mother was a die hard “someday my prince will come” romantic  realist. She was wrapped up in the cinematic notion of life and love; the polar opposite of her actual, real world existence. As much I pride myself in my realism, I probably am a pretty similar person. I see everyday people like actors on a screen. I imagine everyday conversations like poetry, even if they are just talking about Cheetos. I imagine the back stories of the people in the supermarket check out lines. I go on my walks and I am suddenly transported to a scene in a film. I imagine the camera angles. I photograph the everyday because the position of everything literally whispers some sort of story to me. It fills me with emotions. It’s the only way I can relate to the world. Sometimes Motown sings in the background, punctuating the mood of the moment in just the right way…

• • •

A musician once transposed the noted positions of birds on telephone wires. I think of that story often when I go on my walks. My hidden monologues, back stories of strangers, and overheard conversations make me think of how so many of us are like those birds. Unassuming notes on a make shift bar staff. Part of a larger hidden song.

Morning walk (cell phone pic)

Morning walk (cell phone pic)

Maybe I am just screenplaying everything so I have some sense of control. Sometimes I write things down. Other times I repeat moments in my brain over and over again in order to commit them to memory. Sometimes the words and moments float away like ether. In most circumstances, I can’t tell if I am writing myself as a hero or anti-hero. In first or third person. Victim or survivor.

I sat on my porch last night and attempted to read. I was mulling over a lot and feeling particularly melancholy about things I felt had no simple resolution. I whispered the word “mommy” to myself. I don’t know why. My pathetic cry for help. My 39-year-old self knows it won’t make a difference. It was one of those “you can either crumble or pull yourself up by your bootstraps” moments, but I needed vulnerable for a second. And in those vulnerable moments sometimes it only feels right to be just as vulnerable as the moment dictates. Either way, it was my own version of Mayday and my own way to reboot. A large black butterfly with blue spots landed next to me, flying wildly in my face, harassing me. It would fly very close to my shoulder and then sputter away into the trees. Seconds later, it would come back. Three times it did this, then it flew away for good. I sat in quiet for the first time in a long time. It had been a long time  since I had seen a butterfly. A long time since one tried to get my attention. One appeared to me on the subway shortly after my mother had died. One landed on my windshield when I was particularly broke and lost. Maybe this one was there because I just needed to feel less alone.

End scene.

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Telephone Wires (cellphone pic)

Why I Fight and Other Nonsensical Somethings

I am fatigued.

I had spent an afternoon scouring the internet for information. I became enveloped in a vortex of research on a slew of different topics when something popped up in my Facebook feed. I really don’t know why I chose to pay attention to this particular meme. I am not really a fan of most memes. I also don’t know why I chose to look at the comment section, but I scrolled down anyways. I wished I hadn’t.

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This is an actual screenshot from Facebook.

Third.

Comment.

Down.

Permanent words written with a digital Sharpie pen. No shame. No apologies. Just direct words of warning, ignorance, hatred, and a suggestion of murder.

I immediately looked for ways to report that person on Facebook. Then I waited for my son to come home from school.

My mind was reeling. I struggled to work. I started to think about my mother.

• • •

It was my freshman year of college. I can’t remember if my mother wanted me to stop by for dinner, or if I had just had it with cafeteria food and was in need of some decent home cooking. Either way, Mom hadn’t seen me in a while, so I had made plans to head over there. I asked her if I could bring some friends along for the ride. She said, “Of course.”

My mother was a God-fearing person who, for many years, worked in the main office of our parish. It was a kind of home base for her throughout her divorce, even while dealing the conflicting relationship between her own religious ideology and her disintegrating marital circumstance. Abusive or not, it was still a marriage under the eyes of the church. It helped that the priest, while still an old school theologian, was somewhat progressive and forward thinking.

I remember speaking to my mother on that day as if I was trying to prepare us both for some horrible truth. I mentioned on the phone that one of my friends was going to bring his boyfriend to dinner. I asked her if that was ok with her while almost lecturing her to “behave herself” in a self-righteous, daughterly tone. I don’t remember her ever mentioning to me one word either for or against homosexuality in all my years of knowing her, but I was young and I was in the beginnings of discovering I had the strength to assert myself in parental-daughter relations. AND I knew that what the Catholic church believed was in direct opposition of my personal beliefs on this subject. I also knew how opinionated she could be. Therefore, I was determined to let her know that she MUST keep any dogmatic ideas she had to herself on this matter.

“Kimmy, don’t be silly. All of your friends are welcome.” I immediately felt shame for trying to pigeonhole her into a tiny box of beliefs.

My friends and I had a fantastic time. We conversed. They loved how genuine she was. They adored her naivety and they gently teased her for it. I still miss seeing my mother smile and laugh in such a freeing, uninhibited way. She was not happy very often, but when she was it was organic and lovely.

It was also around this time, when I would come home on weekends, I would overhear phone conversations between my mother and a longtime friend of the family. He was struggling with his own sexuality issues and as a direct result he was in the midst of losing his family. My mother and he would speak for hours. She would listen and counsel and comfort. They would laugh… loudly. They spoke candidly and without reservation. In those moments, I would see her true spirit. Looking back, it was in those moments that I admired her most.

• • •

After Jack had quickly finished scribbling down his handwriting homework in a desperate attempt to be able to watch next episode of Spongebob, I asked if he could stop by my computer before turning on the TV.

“You know how daddy and I always tell you how important it is to stand up for other people. Especially people who are being hurt or made fun of?”

“Yes.”

He said it quite nervously. I think he felt a little interrogated.

I debated showing him the above screenshot all day. Only one week prior had he heard a child say a bunch of hate filled words on the bus. “He said the N word, the B word, the…” All those words, said by a child mostly for shock value, and recited like they were ingredients on a shopping list, are creeping into my child’s world at unacceptable rate.

I stroked Jack’s arm and showed him the comment. Those terrible words. His eyes got very wide.

I explained to him how the word FAG was just like any other hateful, shameful name invented to label a person. I explained to him that not only was this a “bad word” floating around in a sea of other words, but that statement was an outright expression of hatred. I told him that the saddest part of this is that it wasn’t written by an unknowing, naive kid trying to test the waters. This was penned by an adult with fully formed beliefs who deliberately chose to express himself in such a way. This wasn’t about a difference of opinion on marriage equality. This was about a basic disconnect of humanity by using the phrase “a shotgun shell through the side of the head” as the exclamation point to his terrible statement.

“Sometimes grown ups can be bullies.”

Jack stood silent.

We talked for a few minutes. I reassured him that the world can be a really awesome place, but explained to him that sometimes, some of the people in it may act less than “awesomely.” That sometimes your world will be interrupted by moments of terrible words. Words said for a laugh, words said to be hurtful, or words said in order to make some sort of sense out of something. And sometimes it will be the “grown ups” spewing forth such nonsense that goes against everything you know to be right.

“Sometimes grown ups are not always right.”

Sometimes you may make a mistake. And sometimes you may get punched or kicked and your heart may get hurt by others who simply do not agree with where you decided to place your feet on that day. But the standing up matters. And the people who matter will always stand with you.

“Listen to what your tummy has to say. It will most likely never steer you wrong.”

I finished by telling him about his grandmother. He listened, asked a few questions, and then he was done. He wanted to play.

• • •

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Jack and Me

I wish I still had my mother to talk to.

I see the bullies everyday, in living color, on their soapboxes, all over the internet, and in my backyard. I read the far too many stories of rape culture justification. I watched the internet blow up with harmful rhetoric towards people of color in regards to the Boston Marathon Bombing. I see the call to arms from the internet masses as their words fill the comment sections of internet news stories and political blogs, begging for permission of some invisible authority figure to finally “send all these people back to where they came from.” Extremists everywhere. One bully speaking more loudly than the other.

These are the grown ups.

I see the reports on the Twitter feeds of the vicious, misguided bullies and the Instagrams of people battling low self-esteem.

I see the passive aggressiveness of this world whittle away at people.

I sit in an Anti Bullying seminar for our school district and my heart hurts. I sit and wonder why on Earth I decided to bring a child into this world. I sit and wonder if I am really strong enough to watch my child wade through all of this nonsense. I can barely wade through it. I sit and wonder if any of us have the power to change anything.

I try to keep my thoughts from drifting towards righteous indignation and despair. As much as I try to operate towards justice, I can be flawed, apathetic, and unreasonable, as well. I know all too well of my own missed opportunities brought on by my own complacency at times. The world’s terrible side can always creep in.

I throw my arms around myself in a makeshift hug and begin weeping for some motherly guidance. It is then that I realize, she already gave it to me. And she keeps whispering it to me when I need it most. And what she is usually whispering is that simply and plainly we grown ups, myself included, have to stop being assholes to ourselves and to each other. In turn our kids will learn and follow suit. We have to be empathetic. We have to stand up.

I don’t know how my mother would have felt about Marriage Equality or the perpetrators of this or any other terroristic activity. She died before she could bear witness to 9/11 or Oklahoma City or Columbine or Newtown or any other catastrophic event played out in living color on our home turf. And I am guessing she would probably would not have much to say about marriage after trying her best at a doomed one. All I do know is that she believed in humanity and justice and long phone calls filled with listening and laughter. I have to hold onto a world like that. Jack has to know these things. Jack has to know that people like this exist. It is the only way anything will ever change. It is a small thing in a vast world of many things. But it can be the beginning of something.

Mom and Me.

Mom and Me.

Chaos Theory, Part 1: The Entropy of Black & Blue (Dishes)

Energy of the universe is constant. Entropy of the universe tends to a maximumRudolf Clausius, German physicist, mathematician and one of the central founders of the science of thermodynamics

photo by Kim Rullo


ENTROPY:
 
a measure of disorder in the universe or of the availability of the energy in a system to do work. The tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity.

_________

I broke a dish…Well, actually, I didn’t… Really, I just opened the cupboard and the dishes came pouring out.

A loud cacophony of crashes ensued. Angrily, I looked downward and screamed inarticulately at the floor. Another direct result of my poor household organizational skills and my often disheveled nature, I thought. In that moment, I had no idea why this freak event brought me to that depressive, narcissistic anti-me sentiment, but there it was, unexpected and disruptive, like the mess laid out before me. A feeling of my mother washed over me as I stared at the broken ceramic shards. She was organized. I am not. She was neat. I am not.

As unkempt as some aspects of my mother’s life had been, everything on the surface always had its place.“What the hell?!” were all the words my thoughts could muster. Whomever said motherhood and domestication was a natural, genetically inherited trait was seriously misinformed. Fort maker — yes! Lightsaber battler — bring it on! Dish stacker — thumbs down.

My thoughts drifted to a friend whose mother had just died. We had spoke of our weird shared experiences that weren’t really shared but weren’t mutually exclusive either. Our different mothers wading in this underlying current of “mutual-ness”: mutual sentiment; mutual sadness; mutual self discovery; mutual regret. Regret is such a terrible thing.

photo by Kim Rullo

Crack! I stepped on one of the shards. My misstep didn’t really hurt, it just brought me back to the floor. It reminded me of the mess that was still there. Kneeling to the ground, I haphazardly started to pick up the taunting ceramic remains.

I got down low, laying my body close to the broken pieces.

I chuckled to myself and began to think, Isn’t this all so very cliché? So cute? So apropos?  The words “a beautiful lie” came to mind. I wasn’t sure what the lie was: my perceptions of my mother or my perceptions of myself. Even the random patterns on the floor were deceiving me in their own way. Strong and thick, yet jagged and broken. A few large segments with miniscule bits behind them, surrounding them. Food particles from last night’s dinner added to the debris that was adorning my less than pristine kitchen floor. They looked like mother, or at least mothers as I intimately knew them. I captured it with my camera. After half my life without her, it was what was left. Not really sad, just different, distant, objectified. Her’s and mine.

Debris and strength.

I began focusing on chaos. I began to miss her.

photo by Kim Rullo

continued next week: Chaos Theory, Part 2: Fumbling Towards Extropy

_________

THE ORIGINS OF MOTHER BLUE:

This post was written this past winter shortly after I heard news of the death of a friend’s mother. My crashing dishes and our multiple conversations inspired this true event and in turn this event prompted me to begin writing this blog. It is the beginnings of my entropy and my journey towards extropy.

The photos in this series are called “Black & Blue Mothers (Dishes).”