As regular readers of this section (I have determined that there are at least half a dozen) have already discerned, my moods tend to go from bad to worse, after which the cycle repeats. Why this is so, I do not know, but I do know that this is not what anyone is likely to consider encouraging. This past week brought an unwelcome anniversary: it has been twenty-five years since my mother died, a victim of cancer (first ovarian, then seemingly omnivorous) at the distressing age of forty-eight. Since I was on the down side long before 1977, it seems pretty clear that her death had nothing to do with my general level of malaise — but what about her life? Can my panoply of pathologies be traced back to this one woman?

There are a few traits which did seem to make the trip through the umbilical cord. Despite the relatively high level of openness suggested by this site, I am at heart very private, somewhat secretive, and some things I simply cannot discuss except under extraordinary circumstances. If anything, my mother was more so; she was The Great Stone Face long before I had read anything by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Some things she simply could not discuss. One of these was her previous marriage, which foundered quickly and was presumably annulled just as quickly; and for years afterwards, her surviving siblings assisted her in keeping the secret, though photos and news articles are known to exist. It occurs to me that if you can keep something that large under wraps, those wraps have room for lots of little things too.

I hesitate to speculate on her, um, love life, but the fact that there were five children in this family suggests at least some activity, though five instances over a thirteen-year period would have to be considered sparse indeed, and I don't recall any incidents in which the parental units were caught in flagrante delicioso, in after-the-fact discussion of same, or indeed ever mentioning the topic at all. I should point out that none of this seeming aversion to the subject was passed on to any of my four siblings, and I probably should not point out that five instances over a thirteen-year period is way better than I've been doing for the last, oh, thirteen years or so.

And perhaps there is one grievance I can lay at her feet (AAAA width, about as far from my double-Es as you can get). I can't tell you what she thought about the concept of unconditional love, but I can tell you that if she ever felt it, she kept it to herself. Perhaps she felt it was more efficient to manage her unruly brood by keeping us off-balance and off-base. And maybe I'm misremembering some of this — I have a brother who reads this stuff on occasion, and he is not the least bit shy about questioning what he sees herein — but even if it's one part extrapolation and two parts projection, it does represent the perceptions I have.

Still, for someone as screwed up as I'm supposed to be, this is not really a whole lot of complaints. I conclude, therefore, that while yes, we did put the "funk" in "dysfunctional" for all those years, and a few things were imprinted on my brain that I could easily have done without, most of what I am today was constructed (and not especially sturdily) by me. There's no reason to think she'll rest any easier to hear this, but for what it's worth, neither will I.

The Vent

24 January 2002

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