Twenty days ago, I launched this process, mostly to create a bit more discipline in my life, but also because I had some things that had been lurking in my mind that I thought I should get on paper. Some of that you have seen here if you have read any of the 20/20. Other ideas found me in the course of the days and helped me discover a few things that I needed to give some more thought to.
Perhaps the most surprising thing to me during these 20 days is how often I have been thinking about my mom. I have mentioned her, I think, in only three of these postings but she has been with me for the last 20 days and, of course, a lot longer.
Is that the why of it?
Did I need to remember my mom—gone these 12 years? Did I need some time to remember her in light of everything I am experiencing today?
(On the train last night we had dinner, as one always does on the train, community style. The woman across from me was in her 80s [heard her say that], and she was clearly forgetting a great many things in these days. She could not remember what a baked potato was, and she confused sour cream with coffee cream. Her husband shepherded her through the meal but her look told me everything I needed to know—she was losing grasp of the near past [most likely Alzheimer’s]. She looked at my shirt with the City of Davis logo and said, “Nice town—but I know I already told you that.” No, she hadn’t. But that is just what people do when they know, THEY KNOW, that the near past is slipping from memory [the distant past, especially the emotive parts, are much more concrete than what happened five minutes ago]. I know this because that is what happened to my mom. Alzheimer’s stole her mind furtively over 10 years and when I last saw her, sitting at the end of her bed in a nursing home from which she would never exit alive; and I told her “I am your son;” and she looked at me and said, with no irony at all “you can’t be my son, my son is just a baby, he was just born,” I realized how terribly sneaky that disease is.)
So, was this all—these 20 days—about my mom?
I am starting to think it was.
In nearly every reflection—especially the ones about brokenness and pain—I sought the face of my mother. I have always felt that the world needed more people like her: people with a winsome belief in the general goodness in people; people who assume the best; people who are willing to sacrifice what they want for the common good; people who desperately want peace to prevail; people who feel the pain of the hurt in others.
As I walk through these days and see the meanness and the anger, I feel naïve to continue to believe that good will prevail.
I always felt my mom was naïve.
She was not highly educated (though she was perceptive and smart in a way that people who have not lived through the Great Depression, an alcoholic father, and a sexually abusive great uncle cannot be), and she could be perceived as someone who could be taken advantage of—and she probably was. I feel the same way. In these days, I feel I am out of my depth, missing something essential, and being “taken for a ride” by people who are much cleverer and savvier than me.
Maybe that is why I am thinking of mom.
I guess what I am trying to say is I would rather be taken advantage of, duped, considered a bumpkin, laughed at as naïve, or taken advantage of by the cognizati, than fail to believe, as my mom did, in the potential for good to prevail. That is what drives me forward.
If someone who faced everything my mom did (see Great Depression, alcoholic father, and sexual abuse, above) could look on the world and proclaim peace and reconciliation, and healing and justice as inevitable (and she did), then who am I to complain about the transitory discomfort I feel from the tensions in my oh-so-privileged community.
Is this why I started 20/20? I am not sure. But it is where I end up after 20 days: wanting more of my mom, more of her love, more of her grace, more of her simple naiveté about the ordering of the world.