And today I flew into the ether from ice and snow to the liquid blue of the Pacific Rim, again -- for probably about the 50th time in the last ten years. My cross-country life continuing, this time I come into it at a moment of confounding crisis and frustration, and I wonder what my mother would have made of this life of mine. I never thought much of her advice; I know she loved me, loved me with an ambivalent ache; was envious of me; found me "provoking" and loved me. When I was 40 and in a difficult relationship that was already beginning to end, I stood in my brother's large shower with my mother sitting haggard and naked in a plastic chair -- we were both naked and it was the only way we could think of to safely shower her. The blessed water streamed over our two bodies, our shared blood bodies, and in the extremity of the moment, a moment of her own extreme vulnerability, she gave me one of the most important gifts of our life together. As I washed her body gently, my own heart wrenched with her weakness, her poor bony body on its last months, she looked at me, her daughter, and called me by my name. She said, "You have a beautiful body. I hope your husband loves your body. I hope your husband appreciates your body."
We were not a physical family. Our religion made us suspicious of our bodies' mysteries, and our bodies were often problematic to us. We didn't dance. "Premarital Sex" was one of the cardinal sins -- and I grew up to both crave and suspect my body's ardors. We were not a family who called each other "honey" or "darling" or "sweetheart." My mother never used those words for me, and I sometimes wish she would have -- I needed her tender love more than I knew. But that day in the shower what my mother said touched me, and I've cherished it ever since. She, who made my body and gave me life, loved what she saw, even as I struggled into middle age. As it turned out, I needed that love, and on her 100th birthday, I need it still. And love her for loving me -- incompletely, raggedly, but always passionately. She was not an "adequate" mother -- she left me unfinished and full of doubt and lamentation. But she gave me enough, and that day in the shower, her love was perfect.