Category Archives: motherless

Happy Dead Mother’s Day 2012

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Mom and Grandma

Margaret Elizabeth {Marsh} Troyer, with Elizabeth Marsh

Today was Happy Dead Mother’s Day. Sounds morose, but for years that’s what I’ve called the anniversary of my mom’s death. It helps me get through the day (the week, the month) to be a little silly about something that still makes me so sad after 21 years. Pretty soon, I’ll be as old as she was. Is?

She’s a little fuzzy now, but I’ll always miss her. I’m sure she would have loved my family.

Happy Faux Mother’s Day!

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Apparently, it was Mother’s Day today. Being motherless for 20+ years and also childless, it slipped by me. In years past, if the step-kids were here they would always wish me a Happy Mother’s Day, sometimes bringing along a craft project from school. I appreciated their thoughtfulness, and yet I always felt awkward, like a fraud: A faux mom.

I guess the only true mom role I have is with my companion animals. Thank the gods for my animal family.

I dream, to keep things moving

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A Year of Mindfulness: 52 Weeks of Focus  – Week 8

This week’s focus is dreams . . . so much has been written about them. Interpretation dictionaries exist, but I enjoy some of the concepts Joseph Campbell teaches about dreams. He says dreams teach us about ourselves and that we can use them to interpret various aspects of ourselves and our lives. To do this,“write your dreams down, then take one little fraction of the dream, one or two images or ideas, and associate with them. Write down what comes to your mind, and again what comes to your mind, and again. You’ll find that the dream is based on a body of experiences that have some kind of significance in your life and that you didn’t know were influencing you. Soon the next dream will come along, and your interpretation will go further.”

This week, as we continue our Year of Mindfulness, I encourage you to pay closer attention to your dreams. Place a pad and pen next to your bed to write down any significant images that arise. What are your dreams saying to you? What are they trying to teach you?

In times of stress, change, or uncertainly, I dream of moving. Moving to a new house, a new town, or a combination of both, but never to the same place twice. Structures and places are often reminiscent of each other, but architecture and layout are different, and there are always new rooms to explore. So boringly symbolic, but that’s who we are.

Every once in a while I have a recurring dream of moving to a large mysterious old house, with secret cavernous rooms. I remember golds and browns, rich carved wood, wandering alone. Seeking. This is the only place that stays the same, waiting for me to dream it into view every now and then. Nothing to see here, move along.

Rarely, I dream of my mom. Always, she is living a seemingly plausible, parallel life. I couldn’t describe it better than I did back in November. An excerpt:

I have that dream every few years too. Except that in mine, I discover that my mom is living a normal life somewhere else, maybe just across the state. When I confront her, she seems unconcerned; she doesn’t wonder what I’ve been up to or want to reunite. She seems content to have been living in that other place all this time. In the dream, I am mildly disturbed by this, but nothing like I would be in real life. And I wake up thinking, is this a symbol, or is this a glimpse? If she exists elsewhere, and is unconcerned with me, this means I am not the center of the universe. But isn’t this what we would want for those we’ve loved and let go — for them to be unmolested by our ultimately insignificant and transient dramas? If they exist outside of this world should they not have their own lives, their own new purpose?

20+20 Vision

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I have now lived the same amount of years without my mother as with her. 20+20. Thinking of you today, mom.

So I wanted to write a long, commemorative post. But I’ve let stresses and deadlines get in the way. There’s still more February for remembering, though.

20 years, half my life, is a long enough time to have forgotten mostly everything. I can’t remember her voice, but I remember how she liked to repeat stories or phrases twice, for emphasis. I can’t focus in on her face, but I remember her eyes (the only non-brown pair in the family), her nose, her mole, her smell, the clothes she wore. I can’t remember any conversations we had, but I remember being loved, of sitting on the couch together watching TV, or a movie. I remember picking berries and mushrooms together, “going for a drive,” and her excitement over having visitors from out-of-town to show off Central Oregon to. I remember spaghetti with dried and reconstituted morels (a gallon jar of dried morels survived longer than she did), sauerkraut and hot dogs, fried zucchini, and sharing “raw” stuffing together at Thanksgiving. I remember that she liked to watch her “stories” (soap operas) and drink Constant Comment tea, which she insisted on calling Constant Comet. I remember that she had to stop drinking coffee because it upset her stomach—and later, so did I. I remember that she liked to take long, hot baths with a book—and so do I. I remember that she loved our companion animals—mostly cats, a dog here and there. I remember going to antique stores, thrift stores, and flea markets, often. I remember a house full of clutter that felt like home.

Most days, something reminds me of her. I wonder where she’s been all these years?

What color is a marble-colored cloud?

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by Franz Wright


Did This Ever Happen to You

A marble-colored cloud
engulfed the sun and stalled,

a skinny squirrel limped toward me
as I crossed the empty park

and froze, the last
or next to last

fall leaf fell but before it touched
the earth, with shocking clarity

I heard my mother’s voice
pronounce my name. And in an instant I passed

beyond sorrow and terror, and was carried up
into the imageless

bright darkness
I came from

and am. Nobody’s
stronger than forgiveness.


From The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief & Healing, edited by Kevin Young.

We are all Elephants

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Elephants on the Edge

I’m having a hard time getting through Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us about Humanity, by G.A. Bradshaw. In fact, I keep digesting a little in small chunks, then putting it down for a few days. What has happened to the elephants of our world is quite simply terrible: habitat fragmentation, wars, hunting, genocide of entire family groups; babies seeing their mothers and families, everyone they’ve ever known and trusted, murdered before their eyes. This is causing posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD in elephants in a similar manner to humans who have suffered through the same types of tragedies. Young elephants are then taken into captivity and treated shamefully in zoos and circuses.

I want you to read this book so that you know what is happening. It is probably too late for captive or wild elephants to survive in our world, but we should know what has been done, so that we will not repeat it. Here are just a few reasons to not support zoos and circuses who keep elephants:

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA, 1970) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA, 1973) are the two main pieces of federal legislation governing elephant welfare and the safety of humans working with elephants in the United States. From an elephant’s point of view, the laws offer little protection. Tellingly, the AWA is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered through its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). There are not specific guidelines tailored to care of elephants, with the exception of tuberculosis testing, treatment, and autopsies.

The number of inspectors assigned to monitoring and enforcing the AWA is miserably inadequate. … Records concerning elephant health and transfers are not readily open to the public…

A variety of tools, including food and water deprivation and other methods of causing distress, pain, and injury, are used to force an elephant to live in captivity and submit to total control by the trainer. This process is called breaking. …

Typically, the breaking process begins by forceful removal of infants from their family units, followed by bodily immobilization, beating, and starvation and other deprivation until the elephant accepts the trainer as his or her “master.” A broken elephant is one who has ceased active resistance against restraint and confinement. Negative reinforcement techniques are a part of regular training: bullhook beatings for poor performance, displays of resistance, and/or unapproved socialization with other elephants. The severity of negative conditioning through the breaking process allows the trainer later to use relatively little force in performances. …

An elephant veterinarian for more than thirty years, Schmidt [Michael Schmidt, an elephant veterinarian of the Oregon Zoo in Portland] maintains that “the modern zoo is as dangerous for elephants as it always has been.” The use of the term dangerous is interesting. Of late much has been made about the necessity of captive breeding of elephants because their conditions in the wild are so threatening. Indeed they are; however, statistics comparing free-ranging elephants with those in captivity demonstrate that confinement is not only dangerous but lethal. One of the National Zoo’s leading researchers on elephant reproduction, Janine Brown, predicts that the severity of problems with zoo elephants—more than 30 percent infertility; high infant mortality, including infanticide; neurotic and stereotypic behavior that includes calf rejection, self-mutilations, and intraspecific aggression leading to deaths; serious foot and weight problems—will result in “the extinction of all elephant species in North American zoos within only a few decades.”

Hello February, my old friend

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Light Boxes

Light Boxes

On January 1st I wrote, February will be my Light Box month. It’s typically a hard month for me because it’s the month my mom died, and as of 2010, the month my old friend Connecticut died. Usually, I let it sneak up on me and end up getting physically ill. This year I’m determined to face it head on by reading, writing, and blogging about grief, illness, and mortality.

Here it is, February 5, and I’ve hardly given it a passing thought. But I need to tackle it now. During the last two Februaries, I suffered from a combination of pneumonia and bronchitis that hashed my lungs, put me on inhalers, sent me for chest x-rays, drove me to the acupuncturist, and dragged on for about 6 weeks each year. Grief turned depression was the catalyst last year when my sweet cat Connecticut died of a lingering illness that reduced her to a skeleton. Needless to say, I would like to avoid major illness this year. Part of it will be luck in avoiding any bugs in public places. But a larger part will be looking ahead, accepting that it will be a hard month—and embracing the opportunities for reflection that it brings. Feb 13 (the day Connecticut died) and Feb 16 (the day my mom died) will be the toughest days and preparing for those days is a good idea.

Light Boxes, by Shane Jones, is a dark little book, with a quirky and unexpected play on language and characters. It exploits tensions: heaven versus earth, dead versus alive, reality versus fantasy and dreams, flying versus being grounded. The illustrations are morosely atmospheric. It’s good to know I’m not the only one with a war against February.

Margaret Elizabeth Marsh Troyer 1942-1991
Margaret Elizabeth Marsh Troyer 1942-1991

It’s weird what you can find online. Here’s a link to a picture of my mom’s headstone that somebody took. The site allows you to create an account and add photos, basic information, etc., but advertises a paid upgrade to “sponsor” the memorial and remove advertisements. Seems a little tacky, but I’m pretty sure mom doesn’t care. And, how else would I have a picture of her gravestone handy to post here? I’ve never really been one to hang out at mom’s grave site. There’s no her, there, if you know what I mean.