Read of the Day: “So That If I Died It Mattered”
6:30 pm, May 6th | by Colette McIntyre
Get your tissues out because this one is a doozy. Poet Jon Sands’ essay for The Millions is an unflinching look at what it means to love, to be loved, to inherit, and to grow; it is bound to make you feel a lot of feels, some of which you probably haven’t felt in a bit.
Sands explores his relationship with his mother that is, like all relationships with mothers, fraught with guilt and time. Here, have a good cry, just in time for Mother’s Day:
My mother is the kindest person a lot of people know. I often tell her this, and she consistently assures, “You haven’t always known me.”
She was the seventh of twelve children in an Irish-Catholic, anti-contraception household in Ft. Lee, New Jersey. In 1995, my grandmother was losing a battle with cancer, while single-handedly caring for my grandfather whose brain was succumbing more, each day, to Alzheimer’s. She allowed my mother to visit and stay until she passed; to change my grandfather’s diapers, take him on walks; to bring my grandmother water, and make her bed. My mother has a history of never asking more from those who are suffering, and she listens to people (not just loved ones) in a way that makes them feel heard. That scene in White Men Can’t Jump whereRosie Perez explains love to Woody Harrelson, something like, “I don’t want you to bring me water, I want you to sympathize. To say Gloria, I too know what it’s like to be thirsty.” My mother invented that shit, but she also brings water.
This spawned years of rebellion from me, her youngest son. I pursued independence by repeatedly rejecting, resenting, desperately succumbing to, and then ultimately depending on this profound well of empathy. By “repeatedly,” I mean over, and over, and over between the ages of 13 and 28. This didn’t prevent me from appreciating my mother, but it did prevent me from humanizing her kindness.
After my parents’ brief separation when I was 14, my body would not let my mother cry around me. I would, literally, fall asleep. My father, with a heavy heart, had left the home of his wife and four children in order to find out more about the love he had for another woman. It was impossible for my mother to talk about what was happening without crying, and my reaction was always swift. Eventually, she stopped telling me. For 14 years, we focused on a subject we both loved: Me.
Read “So That If I Died It Mattered” in its entirety (and cry some more) over at The Millions.