where the writers are
How I Wrote about My Mother within the Context of Her Own Skin (Part 2 of 2)
Sometimes the best way to discover yourself is by taking a closer look at those around you. --Aberjhani
Matriarch Mrs. WillieMae Griffin Lloyd in her well-earned crown of gold. (photo by Wallace E. Lloyd, Sr.)

Thank you Readers for visiting, and thank you Red Room Editors for shining a spotlight on part 1 of this blog . For part two, please continue:



Understanding was not my goal the second time I wrote about my mother. My aim at that time was relief from the horrendous experience of waking in the middle of the night to discover her struggling against the pull of a diabetic coma due to low blood sugar, then zooming off in an ambulance to the hospital, and later returning home to the realization that life had just kicked me in the ass with a sized-forty boot when I least expected it.

I was hardly the first writer to turn to his or her journal for instant therapy but what I could not have consciously foreseen was the furious scribble of my journal notes evolving into an essay, and that essay ending up in the pages of ESSENCE Magazine with the title This Mother's Son. The shock and agony that produced the essay now seems a strange contrast to the blessing that followed (courtesy of then editor-in-chief Susan L. Taylor) in the form of publication in a major magazine. The event itself forced me take a three-month leave of absence from my job as a bookstore manager and provided what my father used to call "a notice from God," informing me of the ways of things to come for the next ten years.

If the poem Return to Savannah had helped me come to terms with my mother as an individual in her own right, the essay This Mother's Son forced me to examine the dynamics of my relationship with that same extraordinary individual just as the hardcore realities of becoming a caregiver began to grow even harder. It also made me look at that self-contained community we called our family, and at my particular place within it. Like any number of writers who polish off the binocular lens of their hindsight and dare to examine their past without blinking or turning away, I sometimes hated what I saw. Like any number of writers who dare to sift through the slush of days long gone for events and meanings capable of clarifying issues in the here and now, I had to make some hard choices regarding which jewels of memory to share and which to leave tucked away in the past. The fact that some were far less splendid than others did not automatically disqualify them from inclusion in the larger story but neither did their lesser attractiveness qualify them to dominate it.

This process of making hard choices empowered me with a balanced perspective that would serve me well when writing the next essay about my mother:  Journey through ‘Universes Beyond the Invisible'. You probably can tell from the title that it is the story of my mother's passing. What the title does not reveal is that as my mother lay dying I often read to her from the book referred to in my title, a volume of poetry and photography by Joseph R. Sherman and Alexandra Oliveira, the creative duo known collectively as OneLight . The voices of these gifted writers became, for me, such an integral part of my mother's transitional process that they also formed an essential aspect of the character of the essay. Their exquisite language devised to map the fluctuating states of physical and spiritual being informed my own to such a point that possibly I was inspired to express at least as much awe and enchantment as I was grief or defeat in my elegiac prose.

During her final week, I spent each night with my mother at the nursing home. In the late-night early-morning "wee small hours," I experienced the kind of shamanic consciousness  that generates an enhanced sense of life and death moving back and forth between worlds. It forced me to again re-examine WillieMae Griffin Lloyd's existence within the context of her own skin.

I had already accepted the qualities of epic adventure reflected in her story and now began to see the even more expansive mythic aspects that included so much more than a single poem or essay could ever contain. Just as I started to wonder how one might capture the larger scope of her life, I realized that while many of the essays I had written since returning to my hometown had not focused on her specifically, many nevertheless demonstrated the deeper meanings of who and what she was precisely because they illustrated the broader cultural, spiritual, and political landscape that framed her being. Thus was born the book, The American Poet Who Went Home Again subtitled "a mosaic of my soul at work," with its puzzle-piece snapshots of an author, one very exceptional woman, their lives, and their times.

To paraphrase and contradict a popular quote: Beauty is not always truth, and truth is certainly not always beautiful. But when writing about our mothers we may be more inclined to look for and champion the beautiful. It is, after all, through the discovery of that which is most worthy within our parents, or within fellow human beings in general, that we often discover that which is most worthy and beautiful within ourselves.


 by Aberjhani