Elbow Room

Mom died a year ago about right now. A week before she left us I had to visit with our lawyers about the sheaf of speeding tickets she’d accrued. She had a big house with a swimming pool both of which she managed all by her lonesome. She was ninety and going strong. Holding her own. You wouldn’t want to cross her.

This is not to say that she had a big opinion of herself. She did not. On the counter next to her purse was this note to self:

You are not God
This is not heaven
Don’t be an ass

I suppose it follows that she wasn’t given to gratuitous hugs and kisses. One had to be open – receptive to her own particular emanations of love and grace which I’ve come to realize knew/know not bounds of time or space. Much to my surprise there remains physical evidence of this.

Surprise because the evidence is photographic. Mom did not like to be photographed, but those of her in the throes of motherhood convey a sense of the beatitude behind her bluster.

Mom used to smoke and that, for some reason, reminded me of the film “Cool Hand Luke”. Luke, played by Paul Newman, is trying to find his way in the world. We all are of course, but he has had more trouble than most. About half way through, having found himself in a prison work camp following a ridiculous crime, he is visited by his mother. Arletta, played by Jo Van Fleet, is obviously dying from a serious lung disorder, but smokes nonetheless. There is a rough fondness in their interaction and both are sad for the way things worked out.

Luke: “What I’ve done with myself is my own problem.

Arletta: “Oh no it ain’t Luke. You ain’t alone. Everywhere you go I’m with you”.

Luke: “I tried to live always free and above board like you, but I can’t seem to find no elbow room…”

Arletta leaves and not much later Luke receives notice of her death. The warden, played by Strother Martin (“What we have here is a failure to communicate…”), recognizes this to be a/the seminal event in Luke’s life and puts him in solitary. Upon his release from “the box” Luke takes a more direct approach in his pilgrimage.

Well, I’ve tried to live always free and above board like Mom. Like Luke I have made mistakes. But, thanks to Mom, I have been able to find elbow room.

Thanks Mom.

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