Moms, Dreams, and Stupid Questions


My mother drew the unicorn. I can’t draw like her. I’ve always wanted to, but have yet to manage it.

Do you compare yourself to your parents? Is there something either on of them did that you wish you could do?

My mother started to write a novel. She had only a few chapters written when she died. But she used to say to me that she wouldn’t write the novel if I didn’t want her to. “Writing is your thing,” she’d say. “I don’t want to step on that.”

I told her to write. I didn’t want to get in the way of something important to her.

I worried though that she was going to be a better writer than me. But then she died, and that seemed massively foolish. I’m glad I have those few chapters. They offered a new glimpse into her thoughts.

Now my novel is published, and what would my mother think? She used to tell me, “Write as if your mother is not going to read it.” That was the only way, she explained, that I’d write what I really wanted to write. “If you don’t want me to read you writing, I promise I never will. I’ll read it only if you ask me.”

She was not the kind of mother who read your letters or diary behind your back.

If you write, do you share your work with your mom? What does she think?

So, I’ve had my first novel published and I’m 45, the same age my mom was when she died. The number gives me pause. I can’t lie.

In the 8th grade, I walked in on a conversation my mom was having with her boyfriend. A co-worker of hers had had a heart attack and died at work. Her voice was hushed, and obviously she was disturbed. I was 14 and an idiot. I didn’t know what to say, so I decided to act like nothing was that out of the ordinary. “Other than that how was your day?” I asked.

I still cringe when I think about it.

My mom gave me a hard look. “What kind of question is that? A man died.” I think she said. I’m not even sure because as soon as I asked the question, I knew it was wrong and that she was upset. I slunk out of the kitchen and hid in my room the rest of the night.

Did you ever ask your parents a question you regretted?

Eight years later my mother collapsed and died at work. My 14-year-old self still wishes she had not asked that stupid question so long ago. And I wonder about my mom’s coworkers who must have gone home that night and talked about someone dying in the office.

At least it didn’t happen while she drove 65 mph down the highway.

I don’t mean to be morbid, but it’s odd to be 45, just coming through cancer treatment and reaching my dream of publication. I wonder what she’d think of my writing. I’d certainly ask her to read it.

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