There are 1000 ways to starve, only one of which involves food. My mother passed away unexpectedly three months after I lost Lesley to cancer. I believe she died of a broken heart, literally and
figuratively. Parents aren't supposed to outlive their children.
Now, my mother wasn't exactly healthy. She had smoked like a coal engine for as long as I had known her. She self-medicated through prescription drugs for at least the first decade of my life and when her doctor took away the pills, she started drinking. She was a Southern lady with Southern cooking ways. The first rule to Southern cooking apparently is add one stick of butter and a little bacon grease to whatever you are preparing. The food tasted good, but I always felt a little queasy about an hour after the meal was consumed. This volatile combination of foods worked well for my mother, she was never overweight, never seriously ill, and perked right along until she was 73 years old. Toward the end of her life she did drag around an oxygen tank, but that didn't slow-up her smoking any. My father didn't fair as well. By the time he passed away at the age of 51 my parents had been divorced for 4 years or so, but the damage had been done. I'm convinced my mother had her silent revenge at mealtime when she would serve my father, who had sky-rocketing blood pressure, his high-fat, high-cholesterol meals. "Now don't be angry dear, and let me get you an extra steak and another stick of butter for your potato." This was a joke between Lesley and me and while we laughed there was just a small part of me that wondered, "hmmm?".
When my mother died there was a train wreck of unresolved issues between us. My mother was a free-spirit in many ways which I am able to appreciate now as an adult. As a child life with her felt more like a roller-coaster ride. My friends always enjoyed her because they got to go home at the end of the ride, but the ride never stopped for me. My mother was highly intelligent, artistic, a gifted pianist, compassionate and tragically damaged emotionally. My mom had a leaky love-cup, it just wouldn't stay filled. I've got a cup just like hers.
A few weeks after my mother died I had this dream: I was walking with a group of people through an apartment complex, on my way to do some good deed for someone I didn't know when I recognized the building as the place where my mother was living. I turned off from the group to stop quickly and say hello to my mother. As I walked into her apartment there was no sign of her, just a disastrous mess, which was normal for my mom. There were library books stacked all over her dining room table, this was also normal for her, but one of the books was opened and as I looked at it more closely I saw the title, "Buying Groceries When You're Broke". This startled me, I knew my mother lived on a tight budget but was unaware she was struggling to this extreme. I felt sick that I had missed what was really going on with my mom. I went into the kitchen and opened her cabinets, they were empty. I opened the refrigerator and it was filled with jars of water. The jars were all different shapes and sizes, some full of water, some half-full, some almost empty. Now I was scared. I ran to my mother's room only to find her emaciated, laying on her bed, dead. It has been close to four years since I had this dream, but I am still haunted by the details.
Had I missed it? Was my mother secretly starving, or was it me? These are the questions I have asked myself over the past four years. Just recently it has occurred to me there are 1000 ways to starve that have nothing to do with food. If love is a field of poppies we can stand in the middle of the splendor, look around and say, "but where are the buttercups? Love is supposed to look like buttercups!" I know this has been true in my life. My mother was not able to package-up her love in a way that shouted "LOVE" to me, but I am convinced she loved me with all she had available. I'm just sorry I didn't recognize love for what it was. All those years I was dying of thirst when all I had to do was pick up a jar, and drink.
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