11 May, 2008

My Mother, Dynamo

The last Mother's Day we had together before my abduction, Mum and I brunched by the fountain at Roselle Court, at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Since I was a little boy, the museum has been a special place for both of us. On weekends we'd often come to see the exhibits and, during the week, there were wonderful art classes for children — pottery, figure drawing, and so on — that I was privileged enough to enjoy. Afterwards Mum would often take me for a croissant or some other kind of treat in the softly lit neoclassical courtyard that opened off the museum's main hall. The place holds fond memories for us, as a result. Upon leaving that final time, I presented her with a large potted gardenia. It was in a full bloom of tiny white blossoms and was redolent of wild honey. Because of its size, she could not take it with her just then, so it endured the better part of a day riding around in the cavernous back seat of my old car. Eventually, though, it ended up in Mum's bedroom, where it's delicate perfume could carry her into peaceful, pleasant dreams every night.

One month later, I was gone. During the nightmarish year to follow, she came to visit me twice a week in the county jail as I awaited trial. Often she would come with friends of mine who were there, I imagine, as much in support of her as of me. We all cleaved to one another — it was the only way to make it through. But mostly it was my mother whose face through that half-inch-thick safety glass both reassured and broke my sickened heart. For as long as I can remember, she has said that she's a survivor, and that time was my opportunity to witness firsthand the full reserves of her indomitable inner strength.

The gardenia I had given her, fragrant and soft with its hundreds of petals, soon shed and grew sparse with some unknown botanical illness. Strange white film had started forming on the leaves, like wax. Mum would deliver updates on its deteriorating condition: "I think it's dying." Not long after, it was moved to the glassed-in patio, where she would tend carefully to it, wiping each individual leaf clean. Even with that attention, the prognosis looked grim. It would have been nothing for her to abandon it to chance rather than dote on it the way she did.

Giving in is not generally part of her repertoire. The gardenia was finally able to be moved back indoors, able once again to cense her to sleep, in due course. She brought it back.

With me as well, her resolve has yet to flag, even these seven years later. Still she makes the hour-long drive every week to see me, still we talk often on the phone, still she finds within herself energy enough to actively crusade for justice in the face of such obstacles as would drive most to discouragement. She is like a force of nature. From her own resilience I get so much of my own — not in some sociobiological sense of inheritance, but that I am emboldened by knowledge of her strength. And, for whatever it's worth, I wear for her my bravest face so she may take heart in the reciprocity of endurance.

We abide balanced upon one another's resolute love, and on the tenacious hope that, someday soon, I too will be brought back from my sorry condition, able on days like this to honor her the way she so rightly deserves. And, of course, to give her flowers.

Danke für Alles, Mutti. Ich liebe Dich