Yesterday, I missed Easter services for the first time in years. I grew up as a preacher’s kid, so therefore even when I became an adult living away from my parents, church was still important to me. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve missed Easter… and the last time was when Dana and I both had respiratory infections (perhaps the flu, I forget) and it made our whole house sound like a TB ward.
This year, I was just as sick, emotion-wise. Nothing could have stirred me from my bed. Nothing. I was so shaken that I just spent the morning staring at the ceiling. I knew for sure that there wasn’t going to be any music I could make it through, and Matt streams live on FB, so I have the chance to go back and listen to him if I feel like it later on.
If that wasn’t enough, the year I had to miss Easter because of being sick, a friend left a Facebook comment I found in the “memories” section that said, “Diane sang ‘Holy City’ this morning and mentioned your old church and your mom accompanying her.”
Je-ruuuuuuusalem, Je-RUUUUUsalem…. lift up your gates and sing! Hoooooosaaaannnaaaaah iiin the HIIIIIIIIIIGHEST, Hosannah to your King……….
I have so many thoughts about that, ranging from being thankful for the memory to wanting to set something on fire (I didn’t). My mom & Diane always enjoyed working together, but my memories of both of them are so different. It was a blessing to hear them together, voice and grand piano ringing in the Austin stone cathedral. On the other hand, Diane said lots of gorgeous things about me publicly while treating me like crap privately… just a needy nuisance because I couldn’t tell fiction from reality. I couldn’t tell show mode from what she really wanted from me and how she was never going to give me what I needed in return.
Our last conversation went something like I don’t want to spend any time with you, and after 20 years I’m willing to stop avoiding that truth… a truth that would have been nice to know a long, long, LONG time ago. I was 36 at the time, embarrassed about almost 23 years’ worth of lies. I beat myself up for not realizing that show mode wasn’t reality, and never would be. Had I been an adult when we met, I think I would have taken it in stride. But I wasn’t. I was a child absolutely enthralled by her voice at first, and that faded into the background as we became actual friends, because there was so much more to her than that. Hearing her sing was always nice, but I was never a fan in the true sense of the word. I wanted to talk about our lives, which had nothing to do with music…. and that worked fairly well until she moved to Portland and Susan came into the picture.
It’s not Susan’s fault, by any means. It’s that Diane was a very unhappy person at the time and I was her go-to gal when she needed someone to listen. I know now that adults should never use children to work out their issues, but that meant both jack and shit to me then. I became this repository for all these things I didn’t know how to handle, but I tried…. and then when Susan came along and Diane was happy, I was no longer needed and therefore discarded.
It didn’t matter that I’d known Diane twice as long. It didn’t matter that I was the only person in her life (nearby, not ever) that could remember her in every iteration from “just graduated from college” to “phenomenal arts success that could turn anything to gold.” It didn’t matter that when she first moved to Portland, I got letters before she met Susan when I didn’t write that said, hello? Is your hand broken? It didn’t matter that the day I graduated from high school, she was pulling for me to move to Portland to get out of the Bible belt and start my life in a post-gay world. It didn’t matter that when I didn’t move and she met Susan, she was telling her that she thought when I was 18, I’d just go away. It didn’t matter that she issued invitation after invitation to come visit, and after I got there, the reality never matched up to the pictures she presented to me…. that she missed me, she loved me, etc. etc. etc. It didn’t matter that at the same time she was struggling with how to tell me that she didn’t want to spend any time with me, we went to a concert together and she introduced me as “her best friend.”
In short, I wasn’t a real friend, just handy as a prop. She could tell people that I was this young woman she’d mentored from the time I was 12, and people thought it was so sweet and loving of her to do it.
So, yesterday morning I felt both used and abandoned, after crying my eyes out that this was my first Easter without my mother.
Because if there’s anything I can truly say I hate about my former relationship with Diane, it’s the rift it caused between me and my own mother. I spent so many years defending Diane that my mother and I drifted apart, because my mother could see that I was troubled and wouldn’t talk under any circumstances…. not even to a therapist. The one time I opened up to a therapist, he invited my parents in and told them that there was no equal relationship, that I was just obsessed, as if it were all my fault…. that I was never taken advantage of, I was just crazy…. but therapists would never use the word crazy. He saw it as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, instead of rightly thinking that 14-year-olds should not have to deal with adult problems on a regular basis… That there was no bait-and-switch aspect, but of course one would think that if you never saw her letters (and probably couldn’t read them anyway if you know her handwriting 😛 ). I didn’t open up to a therapist again until I was 37.
To be a little more fair to my therapist, I didn’t tell him that I was constantly on high alert that Diane was living in an untenable situation… with an alcoholic weed dealer who once brought a pound of weed into the house, and she was constantly afraid of losing her job, both for being arrested in connection with her wife and the possibility of being “outed.”
I got to hear from Diane’s friends that she felt loss over the relationship, and I thought, show mode. If there was any loss on her part, I can only believe that it was because she couldn’t use me to prop up her own ego anymore. She did tell me that she was sorry because she knew that some of those conversations must’ve confused and upset me. I could have been nicer about it, because my only reply was if your idea of making amends is writing one e-mail, reading it is thanks, I’m all better now. I think I’d just hit my limit on being nice.
Clearly, there were genuine moments, but just enough to keep me hooked in so that I couldn’t walk away…. because she loved me.
Just enough to let my pure, white mother love transfer away because I thought my mom was being homophobic and defensive; she wasn’t trying to protect me, a thought that makes my stomach turn because it is so much a part of why I didn’t walk in the light while I had it.
But the thing about mothers is that they’ll forgive anything, and when I started writing about all the gaslighting and crazymaking, the first thing my mother said to me was, is there anything I can do? I started to cry because I felt like I’d completely fucked her over for years and years and she wants to know what she can do for me?
It led to a series of conversations in which I actually did open up, so that by the time she died, she’d had at least three years of hearing all the time that she was right, that the relationship should never have happened, that Diane should have listened to my mother and left me alone rather than taking our relationship underground so that we could hide our letters and phone calls.
I’d do my homework in front of the mailbox so that if a letter came, I’d be the first to see it, knowing that if my parents found it first, it would be trashed. I used to keep them in a backpack in my closet until an air conditioner started leaking right where I kept it (of course) and every damn letter was ruined…. including my favorite, the one where she said she’d left her wife and gotten away from the life that could have ruined her, as well.
I remember opening it at school, no one knowing why I was sobbing onto my marching band uniform…. but they weren’t tears of sadness. If anything, they were joy and relief that I was off the hook from worrying about her all the damn time.
Why that wasn’t a selling point in terms of being close to my mother again, I’ll never know. She tried so hard to connect with me. I remember that one year, my birthday fell on a Friday, and we invited the entire band to come to the house afterward for cake and ice cream. Only one person showed up, but believe me when I say that one person was enough. Had the entire band actually showed, I would have enjoyed the party for about fifteen minutes, my limit in huge crowds. But again, dear God she tried.
Our closest moments were always her accompanying me, whether I was playing my horn or singing. We could work together far easier than being comfortable talking deeply into the night…. and, of course, not only did she accompany me, she accompanied all my band and orchestra friends, as well.
Because I was her daughter, she liked accompanying me the best, but I wasn’t as technically proficient as others. She always said that of her professional accomplishments, it was accompanying Sylvia Danburg, who went on to become the concertmaster at the Met from HSPVA/Julliard that she considered a highlight. Diane was also Met material, which is why my mom always talked lovingly about working with her, too. Diane got the audition in Dallas, and advanced to New York, but the weekend in which it was scheduled, a freak snowstorm hit Dallas and she couldn’t get out in time.
My mother and I just had fun, but she was so much more than just the “having fun” type. All grand piano accompaniments for concertos are orchestra reductions, and she would practice for hours upon hours. I am positive that whenever I got a I at Solo & Ensemble, it was never due to me. I just “hired” the right accompanist.
I am desperately sad that she’ll never accompany me again, because I spent an enormous amount of time and work on becoming a real singer instead of a trumpet player who just fakes it. We never got to do any of the great rep of which I’m now capable. The best I’ve gotten to do so far is that when I sang the Pie Jesu movement of Requiem by John Rutter, my friend Karen held up my cell phone during dress and my mom listened from Houston. Later, Dana showed her the tape, which made her cry, but it wasn’t the same as being there (of course). When I did The Lord is My Shepherd movement from same work, my mom had a church job of her own and the best I could do was send her a link to my Soundcloud account. She had just retired from teaching the May before she died, and we’d planned to work together at CCC when she could come up for a weekend.
Yesterday, I was just so angry that I did not get a dream deferred. I got a dream that died.
No preparation, no saying goodbye, no anything but alive and then dead in the time it takes a clock to tick.
I am sure that, as Susan said once in her Easter sermon, that resurrection happens in the middle of the mess.
Just not this one, literally. It will be my own. Just not this Easter. This Easter was so painful that shaken and stirred doesn’t even begin to cover it. I went to bed as early as possible just so that it would be over more quickly.
Technically, Monday is still Easter…………………….
The Son Also Rises.