A Few Short Steps Down to Hell

Dear Mom,

May has always been my golden month, but it suddenly turned sour.

Wasn’t easy that this past week was the ninth anniversary of your death.

Even the previous weekend was difficult. That Sunday I took a bus to my weekend gig. It was a spectacular May day—Mother’s Day, in fact.

—That’s when a crazy man got on the bus.

Another day of shit,” he snarled at the bus driver and plodded toward a seat in the back. All the passengers, about a half dozen of us, were then subjected to his loud self-talk and cursing. When the bus passed the Cathedral of St. Paul, where parishioners were spilling out into the fresh spring air, he started ranting about Mother’s Day.

“Everyone I love is dead,” he howled.

It was then, Mom, that I realized I was in the presence of evil—the kind of evil that boils up in our faulty human brains and radiates out to other brains—which is the modus operandi of evil: to inflict pain and suffering on others.

As an empath, I immediately took on the lunatic’s energy. What he was saying seemed true, Mom—that, since you were dead and I loved you, I was as crazy as that asshole on the bus.

Of course I was thinking about you on Mother’s Day. You see, when I was a kid, I loved talking with you, like, in the kitchen when I got home from school. You were a good listener and I considered you as a friend. Boys don’t often think about their moms that way, but I did.

Then I wondered about how you and my brother, Brian, got along.

For a long time, I was angry about how he treated your illness in the 1980s. He said some nasty, mocking things about it and I hated him for it. When I discovered that you and I shared the same mental illness, I was more accepting of what you were going through, although I still failed you. Maybe it was because I didn’t know—we didn’t understand—the depth of your sadness, inertia, and negativity. I can’t claim to know what Brian’s relationship with you truly was. I only know what I know.

Recently I ran across a journal entry from that time, written on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 1988. It was your birthday. You had just turned 53.

I was then 28, three years into my first “real” job, and getting over a rocky year myself. That day I’d exercised at the corporate track with a buddy, then joined you and Dad for supper, since Pop had intended to take us to Red Lobster for your “special” birthday celebration.

Even Brian was there (pictured at right, hey it could have been on the same night, hard to say).

But you didn’t want to go out. You weren’t “feeling well.”

We all knew why.

Anyway godamnit, here’s what I wrote, since you should know how I failed you miserably, all the while thinking Brian was solely to blame:

“…Mom [isn’t] any better, in fact I believe she’s worse, an emotional sponge. It makes me so angry and disgusted, to go home any more. With her illness, there seems like no hope. It’s like I’m preparing for her to die and I don’t want that—she’s too young to be throwing her life away. I try to put it out of my mind, her depression. She was crying this evening, ‘This is Hell…just Hell…’ God it hurts to see her suffer for no other apparent cause than what’s ever lodged in her brain. I drove home feeling sympathetic towards people with alcoholics, depressives, handicapped, dying, retarded, or otherwise mentally ill. I thought: what is normal? When you come home and someone asks you, ‘How was your day?’ And you reply, ‘Oh, pretty normal, pretty busy. How was your day?’ And they answer, ‘Oh, pretty good, really. I went to the store and picked up your…blah, blah, blah…’ That seems like normal. But it’s a thin line, a few short steps down to Hell.”

So, I wrote that on your birthday, Mom.

The lunatic on the bus reminded me of it, on Mother’s Day. He was in his own Hell. He made me feel as if I were mere steps from my own Hell. And that scared me.

You were in Hell, and it took you down in the end.

Mom, this week was difficult. I miss you and Dad like all get out. Sometimes I think I’m the lunatic on the bus. I don’t want to think that.

I want to be the best person I can possibly be. You were hopeful about that, and I wish we could’ve talked more about it, especially later in life.

But that never happened. It’s my biggest regret.

All I know is that you are always a part of me.

I remember you as a bright, cheerful, strong woman. I loved that about you. You brought me joy.

And I carry that joy into all my artistic projects and oddball playfulness. It’s what you taught me, and I know it can steer me toward a better place if I listen to my heart, as you always urged me to do.

Your loving son and friend, Mike

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~ by completelyinthedark on May 26, 2017.

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