14 September 2008

Exhausted, part one

"She was tired. It was as simple as that. This life she loved so much had been lived, all along, with the greatest effort. She closed the door again. To hold herself still, she held her breath."
-Ann Beattie

I'm at my mother's house this weekend, and between the bursts of feeding her, cleaning her, moving her, and humoring her, she sleeps. And sleeps. And sleeps some more.

While she sleeps, I cook, I putter, I do the laundry, I amuse my child, I catch up on blog-reading. And I open cabinets and closets, desks and drawers, finding oddments at every turn.

This afternoon, I found a small metal box - like an oversized Altoids tin, but plain - and inside was a tiny clipping, just the last paragraph of an Ann Beattie story that ran in the New Yorker in 1983.

It floored me. I think my mother's been tired for her entire life. Tired being a good girl growing up, tired being a diligent college student. Tired getting married right after graduation, tired raising three children on no money while her husband was in the military and later in law school. Tired buying a fixer-upper of a house, tired being the bitterly divorced mother of three. Tired scrimping and saving, tired being a de facto single parent.

And now, she's tired because her body has turned on her. No longer battling exterior forces, she sleeps and sleeps while the silent inner demon gradually eats away her flesh, her brain, her life. Tired.

35 comments:

Mental P Mama said...

How sad, poignant and a wonderful testament all in the same. Good luck to you. I have been there, and it is the hardest thing I ever had to do.

Her Grace said...

I think that I would be very fond of your mother if I knew her. That clipping tells me so.

This post has a heaviness, but your love and respect for you mother shine through too. Beautiful.

Am, as always, thinking of you and your dear mom.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

My mother was tired too. I know exactly what you mean.

noble pig said...

Wow, this is heavy but so poignant and meaningful. I am sorry for your mother's current state but this was powerful writing.

Marmite Breath said...

I sighed after I read this through. It's beautiful writing, but so sad. My heart broke a little.

the mama bird diaries said...

What a beautiful, haunting post. Thinking of you.

Janet said...

I'm sorry about your Mom. I imagine that my grandmother would have a quote like Beattie's in a drawer somewhere.

painted maypole said...

i'm sorry.

this is a lovely piece, though

merlotmom said...

Wow. I'm so sorry you and your mother are going through this but you wrote a truly beautiful piece. And that's a powerful quote by Ann Beattie. Thanks for sharing.

nutmeg said...

I say that too often - I'm tired. Thanks for the smack in the head.

I love your sleeve, by the way.

RuthWells said...

I'm sorry you're going through a rough time. What a poignant snapshot.

Cactus Petunia said...

Tired she must be, because she obviously put all her heart and soul into living this life. Now she can rest, knowing she raised a beautiful family who loves her so deeply they set aside their own desires to care for her now. I wish you luck and strength. You've already got the love part down.

susan said...

Tired, too, from the capaciousness of her life, which is something you have clearly inherited. I wish you all much peace at this hard time, too.

Eva said...

Best wishes dealing with all this.

Anjali said...

Thinking of you, your mom, your family.

Sober Briquette said...

I really have to read the rest of that.

anticipating part two.

Ellie said...

This is really brilliant. I mean your post, not your mom's state. Ann Beattie is brilliant, and good for your mom for finding that so.

zellmer said...

I can't even imagine how hard this must be for her. And for you. Your mother sounds like a brave and lovely woman.

Mayberry said...

That's really heartbreaking.

S. said...

Lovely, and heartwrenching.

Aunt Becky said...

I imagine that I'll find the same thing in my own mother's house someday.

the queen said...

I just talked to a neighbor today who has been taking care of her Mom for a year. She is tired too. I'm jealous you still have your Mom - but I'm sorry for how tired you must be, too.

Gotta Knit! said...

sad but beautiful and powerful post. Take care of yourself while taking care of your mother.

womaninawindow said...

These things that we keep to mark our time, to speak for us.

holy crap...

painfully poignant.

Sometimes I can't get my head around life
or dying.

my best,
erin

Kate Lord Brown said...

Hi Magpie - so sorry. What a powerful glimpse of your Mum's inner thoughts. So difficult sometimes to relate to one's parents as people (too close, too complicated, too everything ...) then something like that, such a fallible, human feeling, just cuts through all the rubbish. Sending strength to you and yours.

She She said...

So moving. I don't know why, but I'm always surprised when I get a peak at my parents as people, not as parents. Illuminating, disturbing, sad, with a spark of recognition.

Mad said...

Oh, Maggie. This is so hard to live. After my mom died, I remember sifting through her stuff and having so many scraps and pieces reveal to me the life I only sort of knew. And then, I would feel terrible because I never knew how much of what I was imagining was her and how much was my own projection of her.

Thinking of you.

smith kaich jones said...

How incredibly touching. I have no words for this. But I can just see your mother finding that story, finding that paragraph, feeling those words in her soul. Ann Beattie would've been so pleased that someone GOT IT - that her words had reached out & grabbed someone in such an intensely personal way.

I am thinking of you & your mother & sending prayers from God or the Universe or whomever or whatever your way. Hold her close. Hold yourself close also.

Take care.
Debi

Janet said...

(((((Magpie)))))

nonlineargirl said...

Thinking of you.

Also thinking that you are not the only magpie in your family. I so appreciate this keeping of tiny scraps that hold intense meaning.

cadiz12 said...

my mom is not far from 60 and works 14 hours a day. i'm sure she feels the same way, and my heart breaks because there's little i can do to make it easier.

sending good vibes to you and your mom, too.

Kyddryn said...

It's a beautiful quote - I know the feeling. It's a terrible thing to know you are "that woman" and still not know what to do about it but be tired and slog on.

I'm sorry you are enduring this long, slow, journey.

Is there anything one might do to help, even from afar?

Shade and Sweetwater,
K

phd in yogurtry said...

How amazing for her you found her quote.. and better, you understand .. and are now helping to ease her burden.

Barb McMahon said...

I'm so sorry.

I've been away from blogland lately. But my offer still stands - to vent, to be distracted, to rest....

Thinking of you.

Julia said...

I am catching up after nearly two months worth of neglect to my reader. This is a lovely and sad piece. What struck me, though, and it's not exactly surprising given what I have been up to is how much what you describe is similar to caring for a newborn. Physically, that is. Emotionally it's all flipped-- sadness instead of hope, going forward means losing time. All jumbled and all messed up. I am sorry.