EVERY SON SHOULD SEE HIS MOTHER ONCE
© Frank Westcott, 2020. All rights reserved.
It was thirty years ago you passed.
I still feel badly, for the time I was late for that lunch we were to have in your chronic care home. I thought it wouldn’t matter. I didn’t know you ate at a specific time. And were stuck to routine. I thought we could just go down to the cafeteria when I got there, and eat.
It broke my heart seeing you crying by the cafeteria door’s elevator, waiting to take you back up.
You looked so frail. Beaten by life. Cancer. Arthritis. Your heart giving out. And more. I thought you were just having one of your crying jags.
I didn’t know it was because you were afraid I wasn’t coming.
I am sorry. It was my fault. It still is.
We did get to eat. They let us. Even though it wasn’t your time. In the cafeteria.
I remember your eyes. Later. When I was leaving. Pausing at the door to your room. Seeing you in your bed. Your eyes were so blue. Alive. As if fuelled by some other worldly fluorescent magic. As if they were not your eyes. Or you. But another source outside you. Or strangely inside you.
I’ll never forget how your eyes looked in that moment. My moment of leaving. It seemed as if you had suddenly left, too. Your body. This life. Your essence. In that moment. As if you died then. Even though. You lived. For awhile. After. It seemed as if you died then. I still think that.
I saw you once more. Well, twice, when you were in the coffin. Counting that. I got the call on the Tuesday that you had passed. I don’t like Tuesdays now.
I am angry. Not because you died.
Because of your abuse. Unspeakable abuse of the worst kind. And speakable abuse. Like your brainwashing. Brainwashing.A favourite word of yours. You were good at it though. You had the power. It was your era wasn`t it, mom? The brainwashing, conditioning, Pavlovian era of psychology. Not to mention pain infliction. Emotional torment. Psychological twistedness.
I hate you. For that. Yet. I love you. If that’s possible. Not twisted. It mystifies me. You were my mother. I miss you. Sometimes I wish I could talk to you. I remember the smell of muffins baking when I’d come home after school. I liked that. You did teach us discipline of the worst kind and best kind. Of the self. We were forced to have some. Tow the line, as you would say.
I cringe at the word, brainwashing. Still.
You taught about lying. You did. Don’t tell dad, you’d say. I didn’t. I lied.
When I grew up I tried to be honest. I didn’t want to be like you.
I still like muffins. They remind me of the good in you. You had that, too.
In the end, I learned lying got you off the hook. Not me.
I am not sure how I can hate you and love you at the same time. But I do.
You never seemed to be there. Really. Like when I visited you at the hospital. When your eyes went so blue. Maybe that was you for the first time. I don’t know.
You were a saboteur. So I can’t trust you.
I remember saying, from my heart, I wanted to be a musician, to go to Ryerson Polytechnic in Toronto and get a business degree to go with my music plans. You kiboshed that. Didn’t you? You took me to a shrink to get me straightened out. Got all kinds of tests. Brain. Intelligence. Propensities. Preferences. Innate abilities. Natural capacities. Cost you. Didn’t it?
Tests said I was most like musicians. Composers. Playwrights. Scriptwriters. Writers. Singers. Actors. Comedians.
I knew that.
You lied. Rather, you made the shrink lie to getyou offthehook.
I heard you talking to him. When he refused you, we stomped out. You called his boss. Heard you in the basement through the floor-vent in my room. You made the shrink fudge the report. Rewrite the text. But he outsmarted you. The graphs. The numbers. The codes didn’t lie. You missed the part saying I had superior intelligence. I figured it out mom. The report. I think the shrink knew I would. He pointed a lot to the graphs and charts when he talked to me that last time. He was in his eyes, too, mom.
I still have the charts in my mind, mom. And the graphs. That said I was who I am. Today. Musician. Composer.
The codes, graphs and numbers spoke truth. Without you knowing,the psychologist took great pains to point them out to me.
In a way, you killed me that day. And that was a speakable abuse you inflicted. It killed me that day, anyway.
You were a registered nurse. You had a B.A. degree from the University of Toronto. You should have known better. Maybe that’s where you learned how to be so nasty. To be the way you were. I don’t think so. I think you were pushed out of you. Somehow. Somewhere. By something. And were emptied of you. And that’s why you could do what you did. That is forgivable.
You killed my greatest love that day. Music. You were supposed to be my support. You're my mother. Weren’t you?
I find it odd that now thirty years after your passing, I have written over two hundred songs, recorded CDs of me singing or drumming or playing my guitar or my keyboard. Isn’t this so odd thirty years after your death?
Yet while you were alive, I had written but one song. And I’m a writer mom.Books. A play. Stories. Poems. But you knew that.That was one thing you couldn’t take away. Because I wouldn’t let you. I even won an award for my writing one spring.
But you see, I won. And became me. Mine. Not yours anymore.
Some would say I did this in spite of you. Not out of spite for you, I want to add. Although that crossed my mind. Once.
I won mom.
And won an award to boot. Like I said. One spring. For writing.
At the award’s dinner, I couldn’t help thinking you would have liked being there. Gloria Vanderbilt came. Really. You could have met her. Even gotten your picture taken with her. I remember when I was little you talked about her. How hard her life had been. As kid. And grown up. Too.
I did win, mom. You couldn`t buryme completely. I rose. Out of your ashes. Like the phoenix. But you were never cremated. I rose anyway.
I don`t hate you completely. I’m glad of that. You failed as a mother. Yet, your failing and flailing made me strong. Strong enough to hide. Me. To protect what was me.Somewhere.From you. Until you were gone. So you couldn`t get at it. Anymore. When you were gone. Slowly. Little. By. Little. I came out, again. It took a long time. Mom. I was still there. Inside. I like me. Now. For the most part. Now that I`ve been able to get to seeme. I`m not such a bad guy. I have faults and frailties. I am a man.After all. Whether you like it or not.I am a writer. A musician. A singer of words. A maker of notes on a page. A composer. Even a bit of a playwright. I am allthese things. In spite of you. And I repeat so you’re clear. Notout of spite for you.That would be false. These things are not false in me. My gifts, I guess. You tried to throw them away. Bury them. Crush them. Insure my gifts were never fully opened. Well, I took the bow off. The ribbon. The paper. Opened the box. Dark as it was. Sometimes. There. Foundme.Still intact. In spite of you.
I have believed for many years that our innate gifts, whatever they may be, are our currency in life. Now that I have found, rediscovered,my gifts,my currency,it is amazing how my life has begun to flow. Life gets easier when you try to pay your way with yourwho you are instead of your who you are not.
I began to shine through, mom. In everything.With so much love and beauty as Gloria said about my story. The Poet. One of the ones she chose for the award.
I still remember your eyes shining through. That day. When they shone the way they did. And I was unsure whether it was you or something else. I never sawyour eyes that way before. So illuminated. So sparkling. So present. And I guess. So real.
I believe, now, those were your eyes. That that was really you. There. Inside you.Perhaps, me seeing you for the first time.
Every son should see his mother. Once.
Thanks for reading,
For men who experienced sexual abuse or assault in childhood, this is an excellent resource: