06 August 2020

20 Quatrains for Mom's 95th

A common counseling practice,
When reviewing our excesses,
Is to scan our early childhood
For the source of our distresses—

Such as our earliest memory
Regarding sex or money,
Why that which makes me feel morose
Is that which you find funny.

We each have process addictions,
Unveiled when we take stock,
Which is why my wife would ask my
Earliest memory of Bach.

In fact I can remember
When first I was afflicted:
For as in many families ‘twas
My mom got me addicted,

Playing that First Cello Suite
With her bow and D-string,
Denying the long-term effects
It might have on her offspring.

This exposure may have started
At the tender age of six,
Finding me at 65
Still desperate for each fix.

Both my parents in this way
May well be implicated—
Despite impracticalities,
Outright facilitated

My pursuit of the aesthetic.
The world became my cactus;
I had the notion everyone
Would love to hear me practice.

But this felt out of balance,
performative, some say,
With self-involvement lingering
On this page for display.

Yet my mother also nurtured gifts
Ill-suited to the stage;
Modeling compassion
And principled outrage,

The leveraging of privilege,
Holding space for others’ pain—
A quest which sent me back to school—
Calisthenics for the brain.

Even if she supported that
Just so we could talk shop,
The end-effect was humbling,
Baring pretense I could drop;

I came a slight bit closer
To living in the world,
With movements yet imperfect,
My sails hastily furled.

But music makes my ordered place
To where I may retreat
From the emotional chaos
Of those who feel defeat.

And when I start accounting
For all they failed to get
The less I take for granted
What’s so easy to forget:

That my mom was there for me
Through things both large and small,
Discerning how to offer help
When first-born hit a wall.

Likely most important,
However much we know,
Is to keep alive the memory
Of what it is to grow.

For this my mother models
Right up through today,
Digging in her garden,
Painting like Monet.

Remaining forward-thinking
While chronicling the past,
She celebrates the present,
A first who shall be last.

More than ever we now need
To hold our elders dear;
For she is the one who leads us
To face changes without fear.

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