My husband came into my life in 1975 as a packaged deal with two beautiful daughters whom I genuinely love and reared as my own. Although the girls came to us at different times, I remember vividly the day each one arrived.
First Jessica when she was four and then, with the premature death of their birth mother, Una-Melina joined our family a few years later. These changes were difficult for both our daughters, but we loved them and they were young and resilient.
Sadly, Jessica left this world for the next, in 1991 when she was twenty-one, and there will always be a gaping hole where she should be. I love her still and as all parents do, I have often felt the pressure of regret for the things I didn’t do or say when I had the chance.
Ways I failed as a mother and times when I was insensitive or harsh can haunt me. Sound familiar? The agony and ecstasy of parenting is well documented and almost everyone I talk to feels the same pangs of guilt and fear that they somehow failed in their duty.
After her death I dreamed of her regularly and I believe it to be one of the ways I coped and found a way to forgive my failures as a mother. I've written a poem about it. I numbered the verses to insinuate progression. Don’t try to find a meter…it doesn’t have one. It’s a little bit obscure and somewhat peculiar, but it’s a lucid dream poem, what can I say?
I wrote it to celebrate my new-born forgiven self and am compelled to share it with you though it’s pretty personal. Thing is, you don’t have to know me long to find there are no secrets here. What you see is what you get, with no apologies of course. Forgive yourself!
1. Born of her whom, but for him, could have been my friend.
Their first child became ours in the settlement.
The stewardess handed her over to us, clutching her bag
tied together with a bungee cord, its zipper as broken as her world.
2. With well-developed coping skills she climbed into my lap
and told me she didn’t like Rebecca, the first name of her first mom.
Her dimpled hands touched my hair and our love grew like a forced tulip at Christmastime.
The miracle of spring in an undue season.
3. Good grades—good attitude—good girl.
Would-to-God all of them could be this easy!
Didn’t we talk about her at night in our bed,
self-satisfaction entwining its lullaby of peace round our words?
4. At seven she could do somersaults
at seventeen she couldn’t climb the stairs.
The Mayo Clinic doctor phoned to say hope
but he really meant congenital heart and lung defect.
5. She came to me in my dreams the first night after she left us
and discussed the plausibility of regular visits.
She sat on my lap again, her twenty-one year old weight
lying like those piles of cotton batting in my grandmother’s quilting room.
6. Though she had flown from my arms to His, she said she’d come again
as often as my aching and regretful heart needed her.
And she has come, faithfully, her memory worn loose
like an old woman’s teeth from constant chewing.
7. Her visits of late have been less than pleasant
and two times ago when she interrupted my sleep,
I hesitate to mention, I actually called her a dirty name.
Her oft coming has turned out to be exhausting.
8. Last night she declared she wouldn’t return.
Her visits weren’t essential anymore.
Naturally, I didn’t argue with her otherworldly logic.
How could I?
Somehow it only seems right that mercy and truth should kiss each other
while I sleep the dreamless sleep of the forgiven.
That's Jessica with the hood on her head.
She had a style!
The white headed boy in the background is
our son Thom. He also has a style!