By Mitchell B. Ivey
I thought I should take the time to finally get in touch with you, and let you know how I have been. The move was rough, going from one place I call home to a new place that is so vastly different, and oh so far away, took more out of me than I imagined it would. The drive across the country was long and tedious but thankfully uneventful. You know better than anyone momma how I hate to drive long distances. From now on, I'll be able to fly back and forth to visit, but I don't see myself coming anytime soon. I miss you and love you, and no distance will ever change that.
The new job is going well, I am well thought of and respected by my peers. In fact, I am already up for a small promotion now. My supervisor says that she has never seen anyone with such a knack for troubleshooting. We know the real truth though don't we? What better person to solve problems, besides someone who grew up always getting in and out of trouble. I've grown up a lot since I got out of college. My wild streak seems to have faded out, and I enjoy a far more relaxed life now. It has really become necessary, my job takes so much of my time that everything else seems to have become secondary. I have quit drinking and staying out late, I do enjoy going out once in a while, but only with co-workers. I haven't had time to make new friends here momma. I regret that, but I have been so busy. I guess that when things slow down, I ought to get out and pick up where I left off with some of my old interests. Can you believe that I haven't read a book in over 3 months? Doesn't sound like your son the bookworm that you had to kick outside when he was younger does it?
I wish you could see my new house momma, it is really lovely, very provincial you might say. It is ranch style, just like the first house we all lived in in town. It is not as big, but it suits my needs. It has a huge backyard, white shutters on the windows, a two car garage, and beautiful garden in the front that I keep full of roses. The flowers remind me of you. Roses were always your favorite. I remember their sweet smell in the kitchen after you had gone out and cut some to brighten up the house. I used to look forward to spring, not because I liked the roses, but because I remember how happy you were to have roses again. I have roses every now and then in my house, but it doesn't seem the same. Even after all this time, it just doesn't feel like home. I don't know what's missing besides the family, but it just doesn't feel right. Of course momma no place could be home without you, but the roses seem to help.
Overall I guess all is well, and nothing is really worth reporting outside of the above mentioned items. Life has been pretty routine. I'm sorry if this letter is so short, but you know me momma. I lead a boring life. It is due to snow tonight momma. Remember how I always looked forward to the snow. We get plenty up here. I'll build you a snowman just like I used to. I think I'll close now and send this off and hope it gets to you ... no, I can't end it here momma. It would be a lie beyond all forgiveness. I never could lie to you momma.
Everything is not well. Sure, work is great and the house is great, but everything else has fallen down around me momma. I need your advice, I need you to hug me like you did when I would skin my knee on the sidewalk outside and tell me that everything was all right. I need you to be close by so I can talk to you face to face. Your son is lost momma, and I don't know if he will ever be found.
Foremost on my mind is poppa's death. The image of his collapse in the living room on his way to the table for dinner still haunts me. I know it was not my fault momma, I tried everything I knew to save him, but God called him home, right before my eyes momma. You used to brag to all your friends that I was the strongest one in the family in how I reacted to poppa's death like a man. Never letting my feelings show, not crying, standing up straight and meeting everyone's gaze eye to eye. It was just like poppa told me, never back down from someone's gaze, if you do you've done been whipped. I appeared strong for you momma, I know what that man meant to you, and I knew you needed an anchor. I was more than willing to be that anchor, but I paid a terrible price.
My real feelings festered inside me, swelling like a wound. I had no outlet momma. How could I ever let you see me cry again. I was afraid if I faltered, then so would you, and I could not bear to lose you both. I stayed strong outside for you, but inside part of me died. It was almost a repeat when Stevie died in that farming accident while I was off at school. I have felt guilty ever since. Momma I have to this day felt that if I had stayed home and farmed instead of running off chasing my own dreams, Steve would still be alive. I could have been out helping him, watching his back. Instead I was at school sitting around all day listening to professors spout theory after theory that had never been given practical application. It wasn't like yours and poppa's teachings. If either of you told me something, by god, that was how it was, no ifs, ands or buts. I probably doubted your sanity at times with some of your directions on the farm, but you always knew what you were talking about. I learned never to doubt you again.
I guess persistence does pay off. I graduated, and I can still see the gleam in your eyes as I walked over to you after the ceremony holding my diploma out to show you. All you said to me was "your father would have been proud."
No other words were spoken at that moment in time momma, but your eyes said it all. It was a message a mother could pass to her children without words. Words could not have done justice to the feelings that were in your eyes. I have to wonder if it is not the same look a newborn baby receives the first time it is laid into its mother's arms. No words are spoken, but undeniable emotion is transmitted from mother to baby. It is a look that no child will ever consciously remember until something like graduation or marriage occurs, then when the look appears, to the child, no matter how old he or she is, it is recognized as a familiar friend from the old days. Oh what I wouldn't give to see that look in your eyes one more time momma.
I really must apologize momma for not having gotten married yet. I know it has always been your dream to see your grandkids while you were still able to enjoy them, but that is not how it appears it will work out. I have to wonder if you ever thought something was wrong with me. I never brought any girls home to meet you. I was always afraid that I would meet someone I really liked, only to have you disapprove of her for some reason. I know that is silly, I know now that you only wanted me to be happy. I remember some advice you once gave me. You told me that not getting married and starting a family was an acceptable choice to make in life, but it was an awful lonely one, and one that would cause you to miss a lot of life. I used to see myself not getting married, I felt that it would only hamper my career.
All that changed one day momma. I wished you had been there. I was running in the park and somehow ended up meeting a nice young lady who was also out exercising. We talked for a while and I got her phone number. We went out several times. We had so much in common momma, our backgrounds were almost similar. We always had so much to talk about. We understood each other’s feelings. I fell in love with her momma, and it scared me so. I had never opened myself up so much to anyone since poppa died. I couldn't tell you about the situation without you finding out about how I had felt since his death. So late in your life, I didn't want to do anything to hurt you so I kept quiet. I always believed that the situation would work itself out. I was afraid of commitment, but I wanted to be with her more than anything. Momma, she was so beautiful that sometimes just looking at her made me want to cry from sheer joy. I can still remember each and every little look she could bring to her face at any given moment.
Momma, do you remember how everyone always called me Scrooge at Christmas? I never seemed to be able to enjoy the holiday as much as everyone else. I always believed that Christmas was a magical time, but the magic faded each year you got older. For Christmas I gave this girl a small trinket, it wasn't much, but it was all I could afford. It was a music box that I found at a second hand store and had refurbished using everything poppa had ever taught me about woodworking. When I got finished with it, it was hardly recognizable. I gave it to her one night, and the look on her face as she wound it up and heard it for the first time was that of a six year old having just found her stocking that Santa had filled. The magic was back for a brief moment. I fell even further in love with her in that special moment.
Months passed, and we continued going out, but I could not bring myself to commit to the long term. She moved in with me, and I thought that eventually I would be able to ask her to marry me, and I thought she was patient enough to wait, but I came home one night and she was gone. All of her stuff was gone from the apartment. Her letter said that she had to go on with her life, she couldn't waste her life watching me waste mine. Two months later I saw in the paper that she was getting married. That was right before I came home the last time. She was the real reason I returned momma, not the job interview excuse that I gave you. I just felt like coming home again. No matter where I go, your house, the one I grew up in is the only place in the whole world that I feel safe anymore. I try to feel secure where I am, but for some reason, it seems my troubles can't get to me when I'm at home. I miss the big spooky house. I miss the forest in the back, and the little river that flowed behind our house.
I miss you momma.
Did I ever tell you that things got so bad that I tried to kill myself momma? I have never felt more shame than I do right now at having admitted that to you. I know how disappointed you would have been if I had done it. It wasn't really something I planned momma, circumstances were right and I almost ended my life.
I came home drunk one night, and just happened to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror in the hall. For a brief moment I thought I was looking at a stranger. The hollow eyed weakling in the mirror was no one I recognized. All of the problems I had came crashing down on me right then, and I went to find my sleeping pills. With the amount of alcohol in my system, the pills would have done their job quickly and painlessly. As I started to open the bottle I looked into the mirror again, and for just a moment, a quick flickering I saw poppa again. He was standing there shaking his head at me, disappointment filled his eyes. Growing up, whenever I had done something wrong, I always hoped I would be getting a whipping for my trouble, because no beating ever hurt more than poppa looking at me with those disappointed eyes. I threw the pills across the room and sank to my knees and wept the remainder of the evening. The next day I quit drinking and sought out counseling. I hope poppa is not disappointed in me momma, I couldn't stand the thought of his pain at my shortcomings. Are you disappointed momma? Have I been a failure? I hope not, but sometimes it sure feels like I am.
There is much of my life you never knew momma. Even calling it a life is a joke momma. I have been beaten, cheated, had things I love stolen from me, and never, ever, not once asked for one thing in return. Sometimes I felt personally slighted, God has a sense of humor and good ole me is the butt of the whole cosmic joke. Some may chalk it up to ego momma, and you may agree.
That is how I feel momma. Your darling little boy grew up in his lifetime to be bitter, and hard, and afraid. I sometimes really wish poppa had not stopped me that night. It would have saved me a lot of trouble momma. It would have saved me a lot of pain. I spend a great deal of time cursing the darkness and this life I have been cursed with. How come you did not warn me about the real world momma? I seek my own happiness, but it is hard to find it. It doesn't seem fair that some one's happiness should depend on another person's feelings. When I feel really humiliated, and hurt and believing that I can't go on any more I remember one thing. I remember the look in that girl's eyes when she saw the music box I rebuilt for her and a sudden thought comes to mind. All the hurt and anger is a small price to pay to see that look in someone's eyes. I would endure any amount of heartache to see the softness in the eyes that reveal all emotion in a single glance that lasts a lifetime. To feel a soft touch of someone who cares makes up for a lot of trouble. A hug can restore faith and hope in a world of grief. I would walk to Hell to see a moment's happiness on your face, or anyone else that is close to me. Some people live their whole life in pain, but just one simple moment of sheer joy can make it all worthwhile. Some people live their whole lives for that one moment. I realize in my darkest hours momma, that you were right as always. I am strong momma, but I will never be as strong as you. You were my anchor all along.
I want to come and visit again momma, but my schedule is way too full right now. Soon I hope I can get things under control and then I'll fly out and see you. I hope you are being taken care of, you and poppa deserve the best. I know you are right where you have always wanted to be. You belong next to poppa but part of you will always belong to me. The last year has been hard since you left me too. Who will chase away the monsters under my bed, or fix my skinned knee? Where will I get a hug that makes everything all better? I guess I'm a big boy now and can take care of myself, but for some reason it just doesn't make me feel as secure as when you were around. You will never read this letter but I think you understand everything I feel. I still feel you and poppa with me, you both raised me, and thus gave me the strength to endure. We come from a tough family, our ancestors pioneered this country. You both taught me the valuable lesson of believing in yourself and never quitting. These are debts I can never repay momma. My love was all you asked for, but in my mind that is not enough.
I always wanted to say thank you momma, but words never seemed to be enough to describe the feeling I felt. I asked one of the groundsmen that look after you to make sure you get fresh roses on your birthday every year. Its not much I know, not when compared to all the love and happiness we had as a family. I really wish I could be the one to give them to you year after year. But I realize that in that is the final lesson you taught me. Accept your limitations and do whatever you can to surmount them. Once you have done your best then there is nothing more to do. You lived your life by this rule momma, and I will never be able to thank you enough for all the lessons you have taught me through the years. But I hope the roses help.
Your Son.Mitchell B. Ivey is an avid reader, an occasional writer, and sometimes he does arithmetic in his job at a John Deere construction equipment dealer. He dreams of Hollywood buying one of his story ideas one day so he doesn't have to deal with traffic on a daily basis. He is married with two children and lives in The Woodlands, Texas area.