Lecture Upon a Shadow
I have my mother's diary from 1963. She was 19 and had just graduated from Maryknoll College in the Philippines with a degree in English.
In it, she details her gentlemen callers, her first job and her desire to get a Master's Degree in the States. There is even an entry on November 22. In simple block letters she printed, "The world has never been so sad. John F. Kennedy is dead . . ."
Interspersed throughout are short poems, mostly about love - or rather, her desire to fight love. She writes;
"My heart is heavy and confused.
I do not want to fall in love.
I simply, absolutely refuse.
I must keep close watch over my heart.
I must control my voice, my eyes,
My arms, my lips . . .
I must stifle this need to love."
There are moments in my life when I feel I am particularly ensconced in the elemental material of the universe. In those moments, I am faced with the same choices my mother had to make in life. Sometimes, I think I am given the choice to repeat her mistakes or to not.
Mistake is a loaded word. I am not implying that she has made bad choices, but perhaps not the choices I would have made.
Despite our differences, we have made a lot of the same choices. We both studied English and we both write. We both worked in advertising directly out of college and we both love fragrant flowers. We both came to New York to find fruition from our dreams.
We also both ended up with partners who are dissimilarly guided by their respective grief. We have relationships with our partners that could be described as turbulent.
However, we made one startlingly different choice in life. She kept her first baby and I did not. It really was not a choice for her. She is a devout Catholic. And, although she became pregnant while living in New York City in the late 1960's, the first wave of feminism would not encourage her to make revolutionary choices yet.
That one choice resulted in a course of choices that would eventually lead to my being born. So, I am obviously grateful for her decision to start a family long before she had planned.
I am often ashamed that I do not consider that life that I walked away from. It is something I do not think about, and only a handful of people know I was ever pregnant. I do not regret making the choice -- I certainly cherish the fact that we still have a right to choose. But, I cannot contemplate on it for long.
I kept a journal from the day I took a pregnancy test to the days just following the abortion. In it, I write long letters to the unborn baby apologizing for my choice. I explained that it simply could not be and the intricate reasons why.
I described the last moments before the procedure, as the anesthesia took over and turned my veins cold. The doctor wore a pin that read "Trust Women." The music on the radio was some sappy adult contemporary ballad drowning out the vaccuum sounds at the end of life. The last thing I said was, "Please forgive me."
My dear friend, Anjalee, gave birth last night. g8s, being the amazing man that he is, jumped in a car and drove through the night to be there with her. He wrote me an e-mail message apologizing for leaving me with the duties of managing our late night shift at the restaurant. He said it may be the closest he'll ever get to having a child of his own. He had no choice. He just had to be there. Of course, I totally understand.
Me and my mom. 1978.