A Mother’s Love, a Son’s Regrets – Fourth of the Lineage Poems

A Mother’s Love, A Son’s Regret. Looking back, it’s clear that I’ve written more about my father than I ever did about my mother. Fathers and sons I suppose. But she was also the quieter, smaller one of the two. I always had the sense that she chose to hold herself close, always to defer.

September 11, 2001

We drove her from Florida to Chicago on September 11, 2001. The world had suddenly erupted in fire and all flights had been cancelled. We convinced Hertz to give us a van and we drove for three days across a silent, empty America. Her dementia was pretty bad by that point, and she repeated over and over and over, “Where am I going?” “Why do I need to go?” I didn’t have a good answer then, and I guess I don’t now.

A Mother’s Love, a Son’s Regrets

Margaret Ruth lived in a nursing home in Chicago from 2001 until her death in 2004 from simple old age. I’ve posted before (link immediately below) about my sadness that I failed to attend properly the end of her life, allowing her to die alone in the night when it was pretty clear that it was her time.

Here’s a link to “That I Would do Betterhttps://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2020/05/10/that-i-would-do-better-poetry-poem-mother-regrets-mothersday/

Margaret Ruth, age four on the far right, 1921

I own that regret. But there’s also the regret of perhaps never having really known her. So here are two pieces that speak to missing the life of one who loved and raised me. Perhaps I could only see this as I creep into my older years myself. First, the mystery of seeing off one who once had been the entire world.

When the World is Lost Forever

childish things


we stood in a circle around the grave
some read poems while some 
chose silence. the funeral director

placed her ashes in the ground
while the redwing blackbirds sang 
among the corn. we'd always assumed

that she could fly, but then we
were only children, and eager to cling
to childish things


A Mother’s Love, a Son’s Regrets

And second, upon seeing her in the nursing home, a shadow of who she’d once been and wondering if (or perhaps knowing) we’d missed something essential over all those years.

margaret ruth

old woman, what have you done with her?
she was here when I last looked. now 
there's only you, a remnant, your mind 
approaching the capacity of experience 
cycling back upon itself, the tape skipping, catching 
rewinding as we speak. your face has been chiseled, 
deep lines cut into spotted flesh surrounding pools 
of sadness in your eyes. 
                                        
I can see into the depths 
of that water -- here rest the old ones 
in images black and brown, a diminishing succession 
of farmers’ wives standing resolute at the arms 
of sitting dead husbands. here are young brides 
with radical curls, high collars and narrow waists 
holding round-faced war-babies smiling at the camera. 
here is a mother reading soft words to soft children 
in light fading into dreams—ah Margaret Ruth 
we were for each other 
and we never really knew


The author at age one with his Mother Margaret Ruth, 1958

Here’s the link to first Lineage Poem – A Joyful Noise https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/09/a-joyful-noise-root-music-of-the-heartland/

Here’s the link to the second Lineage Poem – One the Way to Heaven, Over Ohio https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/16/on-the-way-to-heaven-2nd-lineage-poem-over-ohio/

Here’s the link to the third Lineage Poem – Welcomed by the Land, Redwing Blackbirds https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/24/a-father-returns-home-welcomed-by-the-land/

For more poems speaking to mothers and motherhood, click here: https://www.poetry.com/psearch/mothers

All Poems, Text and Images are © 2022 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com