Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mom or Dad, My Heart Belongs to Me, Barbra

Tonight broadcasting to you live from the Mission, since it is Wednesday night and Wednesday night is the blog from the City. The Mission was very smelly (like a dead fish on a beach, baby) and rich tonight--worn tapestry. I sit at the table with about 20 items strewn about sharing with others. Seems odd and right.

I share other things as well. I share a little Barbra Streisand on the iPod with lost friends from the past. I share half a life of my mother's and another half of a life of my father's.

I'll explain. To do this requires that I go back to a little history.

Growing up, my mother stayed home with my brother and I. Her sole purpose in life until I was about 13 years old was to raise us. We went to school but were home-churched. We raised 90% of our groceries. Around about the time I was 13 my mother announced that she would like to operate her own business out of the farm, a "truck farm" as they are called in Ohio, full of bedding plants, container gardens, and eggs out the wazoo. She started to go to Bryan and Montpelier's Farmer's Market in the summer. My brother and I didn't really like it--we never had much "family" time without interruption after that, but my mother was absolutely entranced. (Funny thing, years mother was moved to the living room on a hospital bed during cancer and I got to act on my resentment for the business, after years of being a good sport. A customer had come around--the business was closed, mind you, due to her prognosis--and refused to leave. My father and brother were in the driveway with this guy, telling him we couldn't sell him anything--nothing to sell--and he refused to believe that my mother could no longer bring anything to life from mere seeds. My father came into the house and said, "He won't take no for an answer." Jo stomped out the door, grabbing a lawn rake on the way, and she didn't have to say a word. The guy had the ignition turned before I left the bottom porch step.)

My mother not only loved the plants, but she loved people. She soon found out that she could talk to other adults about plants and not all of them had my father's grumpy temperament. But my father had a reason to be grumpy--my mother's business never turned a profit in 15 years, and he had to work at a stinking, unsafe factory in order to make her dream come true. He resented it. He resented it when she got sick before the business bills were paid off, he resented it when he had to clean up after her illness and her years of accumulation, and he resented it when no one understood his resentment--most of all his kids.

Seven years later I have a better grasp of why she wanted what she wanted and why he felt cheated. When I am here in the City, looking to Sutro in the brassy blue sunset, or writing in a cafe with a glass of wine buzzing me like guitar strings on a wild night, then I'm with Mom--we look across the kitchen table at each other in my mind's room and grin conspiratorily. But when I'm riding the Muni and BART and AC Transit with the homeless and the rude, I feel as robbed as my father, determined to be angry that I have to sell myself out 10 hours a day. My father and I have a beer at that kitchen table and we bitch each other's hearts down to the consistency of oatmeal. We let life win.

Funny, I nearly forget the other spouse when I am with the City Spouse or the Cross Country Spouse. Mom forgets Dad when we are in the City--we're a couple of kids. Dad forgets Mom when we are in Oakland--we're a couple of teamsters and women are stupid. (Screw the fact that I am a woman. I'm not allowed to be with Dad. A woman wouldn't sit at his table.)

My Dad is paying for my Mom, and my Mom is keeping my Dad alive.

I hope the guilt doesn't kill this Mom, too.

And I hope to reach as many people as Mom did, before Jo shows up with a rake.

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