Where the Ashes Are
The cops found my mom in Duluth. They looked at her ID, saw she was eighteen and left. She’d run away from her abusive mom while a senior in high school. Later, she earned her GED. I’m not sure of the whole timetable, but she spent time in Portland, Oregon, which she loved, and came back with two kids. Sometime later, I appeared.
I’m not close to my sisters, they moved out while I was in grade school. Not sure if they graduated either, come to think of it. I do remember one tale, back when we lived in Minneapolis, but before I was old enough to remember it.
We were coming back from somewhere and just outside our house, this girl runs up and steals my mom’s purse. We’re poor and this is the seventies. There ain’t nothing in there but a driver’s license and money. My mom sends the girls inside (presumably with me) and she chases this girl like six blocks. She got her purse back.
We’ve all heard the advice that you should let the crooks have it. Your life isn’t worth it. Bull fucking shit. Somebody does crime right in front of you, you deal with it. You chase them down, get your shit back. If they won’t give it, you make them earn it with pain and blood.
Where was I? Mom. I don’t think we were close. Perhaps surprising for we were all by ourselves in the country. I’m used to being alone. She’s used to being alone. Independent is what you’d call her. I don’t reckon folks like that need not chatter every thought in their head.
She got breast cancer while I was a senior. I wanted to skip the stupid graduation ceremony. Sorry class of 2020, I don’t give a rat’s ass about pomp and circumstance. I’d done a good job of getting through high school invisibly. Pretty sure there are no pictures of me until my senior year. But she made me go. It occurs to me while I write this, because I’m a little dense, that she never walked. She never saw her daughters walk. This one thing was a victory for her. Getting one of us across the line.
She got better. She met my fiance, but missed our wedding because of illness. Since we finished in the winter, there was no college graduation ceremony. I’ve never tossed a funny hat in the air. Three years later, cancer came back with a vengeance and she knew that was a losing fight. And then she was gone.
She had a coffee cup she liked. Funny, I reckon because she didn’t drink coffee. But people’d come over and they’d talk. She was a good listener. All my friends thought so. I didn’t get that gene. But about that cup. It read, “Avenge yourself. Live long enough to be a problem to your kids.” Being a contrary we got in common. She did what she had to so I could end up better. But she never put her problems on me.
I couldn’t tell you where she’s buried. Per her wishes, she didn’t want a gathering and her uncle buried the ashes under a newly planted tree. I think her friends met anyway. Maybe she didn’t know how many friends she had. But one friend told me that she thought my mom’s heart had been broken a long time ago and never mended. That’s sad as heck, but Hemingway might have said something about people being strong in the places they are strong, and weak in the places they are weak. That was my mom.