My mother eats too slowly.
That’s the only problem with her really, besides the fact that she knows everything about me, everything. That I started smoking when I was 17 — cigarettes that is, not weed. That I lost my virginity in a matter of 35 seconds on our basement’s red leather couch, which is now gone, perhaps in the home of strangers who are oblivious to the energy it holds. A couch my mother never liked. She is sensitive like me. A family born from the emotions of those who inherited depression. My mother and I, in a sense, share everything without choice. My mother and I, on most Monday nights — if you must know — smoke weed.
When my mother married my father she was 19. She wasn’t sure if that was the right decision, but they married. My father was 20. They met at a bar and my grandfather (my mother’s father) who was dying of cancer told my mother: I want to see you get married. So they did, in 1979. My grandfather, whom I never met, was dying of brain cancer and he never left the couch. After the wedding (which I heard was beautiful, normal — there was a church involved) he died there lying on the couch. But this isn’t why my mother smokes weed.
She smokes weed because she was a ballerina, tall and beautiful, who now in her middle age, feels the pain from her years of pliés.
The first time I slept with my girlfriend, Caprice — 3 years ago — we were awakened by a phone call early in the morning, my mother crying. Someone had died, I thought. Yet, nobody had died. My mother and sister had shut down the largest intersection in Fort Collins because of a car crash. So Caprice and I gathered our things and jumped in the car. It was the first time Caprice had ever seen my mother, Donna, or my sister, Jessy. I remember pointing to the wreckage and telling Caprice, that is my mother, and that is my twin sister, there — being pulled out on the stretcher.
My mother cried next to the crashed car and I remember Caprice told me: She is tall and beautiful.
The damage done to my mother’s back has been irreversible. The nerves, muscles and discs are out of whack. During her lunch hours and after working as a part-time receptionist she swims and goes to physical therapy. My mother’s back is lopsided, basically (I am not a doctor). The things you can do to your body by just dancing on your toes for years on end can be intense, and that is how the original damage happened more than two decades ago. The problems surrounding her spine built up, and after that car crash everything in her spine became more severe. She medicates with weed. She takes prescription drugs, but nothing works as well as weed.
The crash and my mother’s continued pain were what she and I spoke about last week as we dropped tincture and went for an evening hike.
Funny, isn’t it: I would rather be high with my mother more than anyone else.
The hike started on the trail that winds over the foothills across the street from my parents’ house in Fort Collins. We walked slowly and talked below the foothills. She couldn’t go far. Not like she used to just a few years ago. She used to hike upwards of 10 miles every week; now she’s lucky if she can walk one. I don’t remember much of what we talked about except that we laughed. Curled over, and really laughed together. In this country how often can you say that about yourself and your mother?
We took drops of tincture and I thought back to a book I had read, “The Passage” by Justin Cronin, and one of its lines: “Why is it that we have to know our parents so well?”
I think: Maybe because we never have.
Nothing in our historical American lives has ever said it’s OK for parents and their children to be so open.
It was dark on our walk. The trees reached up in indiscriminate ways. She couldn’t walk far, she felt pain, and we stared at the low glow above the Rockies. Colorado, this is where I was made. We were high, mother and son. We had our 6-year-old German Shepherd, Koda, running ahead of us. It’s hard for my mother to take Koda out as often as she used too.
The tincture made my mother’s back loosen up and her knees operate without so much restriction. She walked with a sense of freedom. No longer was her back arched in a robotic way, with her chin jutting forward in a military fashion. Beneath her white shawl she was walking with a natural rhythm. In the distance we heard a creek bed trickling, breaking down the field’s deadening silence. After some time, maybe a half-mile in, my mother decided we should turn back. She told me stories about growing up in the middle-of-nowhere Kansas, and how she’d walk the fields with her father hunting for rusted-out vehicles that he could turn into showroom models.
Her breath was labored, but what felt so special about our hike was that dropping tincture got us out of the house. It got my mother moving.