My daughter and I were listening to podcasts called The Moth Radio Hour on the way home from PA, where my mother died just 15 days ago, featuring people telling their different and poignantly human stories from the holiday season. A story about quite a character, of a man named Igor started me off, tears silently squeezing out of the outsides of my eyes. A man who was quoted as saying, “I don’t give up easily,” which reminded me of my father who escaped with me on foot from Hungary. My daughter is evidently too young or too different to understand the mix of feelings that accumulate over a lifetime, because she hasn’t arrived yet to my approximate vantage point, and she’s trying not to be like me anyway, so easily moved to tears as I am. Though this is a time of grieving my mother (and remembering her from better times before she got MS), my father surfaced again in my memory as well.
Like this man Igor, he also came from another world where stories abounded as a way of communicating and swaying someone in your favor. They were important. Not tuned out. Some to pass on family stories to the young which keep the dead alive, keep the part of you alive that lived with them. By now, the tears are flowing full throttle. “What’s bothering you?” my daughter asked with resignation. She really can’t handle my tears. I tried explaining what touched me, remembering both of my parents, and ended with saying that the world my father came from was unimaginable to someone living now in our online, computer world, where the way of connecting (or disconnecting) was so different, and that I still had part of that world inside me (there are many reasons why I don’t make sense to you, daughter, and this is a strong one). I told her one of my own funny Christmas stories to bring alive the idea that our memories are always a mix, that good ones prevail.
When someone dies, hopefully, it’s the love that remains in strong focus. Both of my parents came a long way from the worlds they grew up in. No matter the struggles or conflicts they experienced in facing their world, or that I experienced in facing my relationship with them, my mother’s last intelligible words said it best, “In spite of everything, I love you.” I love you too, Mom, and thanks for your gift of courage. I used it a thousand different ways at least, and I'm still not done.