Thursday, March 31, 2011

Me and Joyce Carol Oates


The last time my mom was at her favorite place, her trailer at Mountain Shadows Lake in Newton, N.J.

Joyce Carol Oates lost her husband unexpectedly when she drove him to the hospital because he had pneumonia and he caught something there. A staph infection or C-diff or something, just like what was always getting my mother sick. A week later he was dead.

I hold up Raven’s Wing and think—she wrote this when she was innocent. When she didn’t know what pain was. I think about when I met her over twenty years ago at a reading she gave in a library in Princeton. I asked a question. I always ask questions even if I’m scared. She was a famous writer! Now I look back and I think about how she and I didn’t know what we were in for. Being scared is nothing compared to losing someone who means the world to you. We could have never imagined our futures back then when our paths crossed and we shook hands, she in a grey wool coat and beret, me in a twenty-nine dollar jacket from Bradlees. She was smaller than I’d imagined. Her hand was cool. I said something nice about her work. I worried that I sounded like a jerk. I worried that I smelled like cigarette smoke. It was an innocent time when all I had to worry about was what a famous writer thought of me.

19 comments:

Rural Rambler said...

Debi how wonderful you met her! Love seeing your Mom. I can't tell you how many times CH and I sat outside my Mom and Dad-in Law's 5th wheel and ate, drank and blabbed! I miss it. When CH's Dad passed away that was the end of that. It is amazing in all kinds of different ways how our lives change when someone that is near and dear to our hearts leaves us and we have to go on with just our memories. Thank heavens for memories. Debi I have some of my Mom's favorite perfume that I still pass under my nose just to smell her :) It's been 24 years! I loved those innocent times. I think they are all behind me now that I am almost 60. This is a moving post for me this morning. Oh and I am pretty sure you didn't sound like a jerk!

Grey Horse Matters said...

It's pretty cool that you met JCO and I'm sure she thought you were just fine. Amazing the silly things we had to worry about back in the days of innocence. These days smelling like smoke would be the least of our worries.

I lost my mom 12 years ago to cancer and although I think I've moved past this, sometimes a memory will hit me and I miss her all over again. We never know how our lives will turn out but we still have to live each day for the living not the ones who are gone. Thank goodness for memories to fall back on.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Rural, oh, she loved that fifth wheel! I feel so good that I got her up there one last time and it was a whole weekend--I'd never stayed more than a day before. She was so sick but she was so happy to be there at her favorite place and to show me everything she loved, that we didn't have time for before, because I never stayed long enough.

My sister and I split all her perfume. I love wearing it. And I still take a whiff of my Nana's perfume, Intimate. I keep it right here in my desk drawer. Most of it evaporated but I can still smell her. It brings me right back. Very comforting.

24 years. It gets easier but it also gets harder, doesn't it? And it doesn't matter how old we are. I'm fifty and I feel like a kid with no mother. One thing that helps me is I think of the real kids with no mothers. My girlfriend lost her mother when she was five-years-old. Teenage girls. That's got to be hard! How lucky we were to have ours as long as we did.

Tammy said...

I'm 50 and a kid with no mom or dad either. And you are right... yes, it gets easier in some ways, but a lot harder in other ways. There are so many milestones that we reach and still want our mommies. I don't think I'll ever shake that loneliness. But it replaced by the fact that my mom WAS important in my life and I'm a better person because of her. Everyone should be as lucky as us, right Debbie? (Okay, nothing like a morning cry).

You asked in my comments how I struck thru some text in my post. Well, I kind of cheated. I used the New Blog post in Word & then used a command to publish to Blogger. I find I have more options using word than just Blogger alone. So, when I go into Word, I click on the TL Icon (used to be called File) and then select New & then New Blog Post. I have Word 2007 - not sure if this option is available in prior versions.

Chris said...

Wonderful picture. I'm so glad you had those good times to remember.

I recently Oates piece about her husband's death. Your writing reminds me of hers int he way that you use everyday things to reach the profound. I'd love to meet her, have met her. Yes we were innocent, but wisdom seems worth the grief, and what choice do we have? Each moment we are given is a blessing.

Sweetflutterbys3 said...

What a deep, touching and thought provoking way of expressing the loss of your mom. She must have been one heck of a lady.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Chris, it was funny--after I heard about her husband dying, I read her biography and I discovered we have a lot in common. We have the same birthday. We have the same religious background and views. Her grandmother's name was Blanche. My mother's middle name was Blanche. There were quite a few things, too long to go into. What a nice compliment to compare my writing to hers!

You're right. It's worth the grief. I tell my father that. We wouldn't be so sad if she wasn't so great.

Sweetfutterbys, your comment was really nice. I'm glad it touched you. What you said touched me.

Sloan said...

That was beautifully written Debi. It brought a tear to my eye.

Horses Are Our Lives said...

I love the thought of keeping the perfume to smell at times. I'm in my 50's also, and my mom is going downhill. I just prayer for no suffering. I think maybe moms are meant to be missed. It makes me always think about my grandmother, and how much I miss her.

zenmama said...

I read a good deal of your blog and love it. You have so much to say and am so happy that you introduced yourself through mine.

Your mother adored you, I know this because she helped you to become a full, vivid human being. Your expression of that loving bond is beautiful. I was honored to read about it.

I will visit you again too.

Christina said...

Look at those wonderful ladies. I would have liked to sit there too. I bet those Jersey women would have given me the business.

I always say you dont know real pain until you love someone enough to trade places with them and they leave.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

You guys have all said really nice things. It helps.

Gilly said...

It is a great blessing that we cannot see our futures.

May peace be yours, Debbi.

Leonora said...

This is a great photo : ) My husband's parents had a trailer on Brant Lake in upstate NY. Fantastic memories!
You're right, scared doesn't even begin to explain it...

Beth said...

Hey there, Debi...I'm sorry to have been out of touch. What a lovely, poignant reflection on life and loss...I can certainly relate. As you know, I lost my mom in my twenties, and I regret so much that she never knew my children, who are a whole lot like her. I think about her every day.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Beth, I was feeling sorry for myself thinking that my mom will never meet my grandchildren. Then I hear stories like yours, that your mom never knew your CHILDREN, and it puts things into perspective for me, how lucky I really am. How lucky I was to have her for as long as I did. Hopefully it helps you a little to know that you helped me. All of you who make comments here on my stories. You're helping me through it. Thank you.

Tanya said...

looks like such a fun day where happy memories were made...hold onto that!

Cape Coop said...

I feel so bereft and helpless reading this post and the comments. I want to offer you solace, so I am going to tell you this. My heart is hurting in tandem with yours- I feel the loss in all of these posts. Some people will tell you that this pain will ease, but the truth is, it won't. It may even worsen at significant points in your future. What I can assure you is that we CAN find a way to accept these losses- and they will improve our souls. I keep this thought in my desk- a quotation of Camus- "In order to exist just once in the world, it is necessary never again to exist." It comforts me to know that my mother DID exist, and that I shared existence with her for even the short time we had- and death is a necessary part of this existence.
I was just re-staged to 4B and am trying to find my footing- how do I feel, how to proceed in life? I think about my daughter most of all, and I feel low about the details of the journey we are on. And then I remember the light in existence and I try my best to feel it- even now. Because in order to HAVE, we must as well NOT have.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Rebecca, the Camus quote reminds me of something I always tell my father. He misses my mother terribly. I tell him, "If she wasn't so great, we wouldn't be so sad." In order to have, we must as well not have. You're right about that.

I can't even imagine what you are going through. All you can do is concentrate on what you HAVE. I know you do that. You've been a great inspiration to me. We haven't even met yet in real life (soon I hope), but I love you already.