Get up, eat jelly by dixē.flatlin3
I visited with the very ill mother of an ex-lover yesterday; more of a matter of convenience and proximity than anything else. I know that her son and his family live out of state and travel on a moment’s notice is not something a lot of working-class folks have access to. And I have always appreciated the spirt and will of the woman herself, whom I have known since she was in her early-40s. She made her way as single mother in the rough landscape that was once heralded as a 60’s desert utopia – let’s call it the greater Joshua Tree area.
Now having grown up in the lo desert myself, Yucca and beyond were always these places we associated with peers who had burnout hippie parents and names like Rainbow and shit. Oh, and drugs – lots and LOTS of drugs. It was bad enough being sequestered to the lower desert areas, making our way to those parts was always an entire production for my crew in high school. As one of the few who routinely had both a car and a job, I feel I can speak with authority on this matter. I had thankfully met this lovely woman’s son after high school, as there is no way I could have handled the roasting from ALL of my male friends had I done it sooner. Dating someone who openly listened to Depeche Mode back then was tantamount to treason, which is funny for someone like me who, as a tween, was (is) very much an avid Duranie. I had briefly dated one respectable punk rock boy from the area and that had been tolerated. Barely.
As is often the case, young love did not last, and once her son and I were truly a couple, it was over. That is a very pretty way to summarize a rather traumatic time, but that is exactly what time does, makes things prettier to look at. I have visited with her frequently since the advent of social media, which coincided with my begrudging willingness to return to the area. Her personality and stories of essentially being a groupie in the 60s were always amusing to an introvert like me. She lovingly tells the story of me being on the last bender she had that made her realize she needed AA. To me it was just another random night out in the high desert doing what we do best – getting fucked up.
Flash forward a few decades, and here we now sit in the emergency room of a prominent Coachella Valley hospital. I had snuck in under the guise of being her daughter and soon found myself in the room with her, her live-in boyfriend, and nary a blood relative in sight. And I feel that from the core of my soul as my mother has chosen to live several states away and I would be hard pressed to drop everything to fly to her aid. But I can drive to a hospital a few miles away and comfort an old friend.
I am blessed to have always unearthed wise elders to counsel me. Or perhaps I am blessed that I paid attention to what my elders were saying. Growing up in the area I did made it apparent that both fame and youth were fleeting, so enjoy the ride as you go because you will soon be dead or worse, irrelevant.
Creeping around the Burbank-area estate sales of old Hollywood as a kid profoundly impacted my worldview. With this lovely woman I have always listened attentively to her tales of what mid-century American women in Southern California endured. A generation that were raised to truly believe that their value was determined by the success of their husbands.
My friend was a tasty little dish when she hooked up with a married musician in the late 60s. She quickly found herself at the center of a messy divorce (not her own) and was then quickly married and expecting her first child with her older spouse. I try to wrap my head around how an eighteen-year-old girl handled all that, but the world she describes is such a patriarchal clusterfuck of beehives and miniskirts, it’s hard. Needless to say, drama, drama, drama, and she somehow makes her way to the high desert with her son in the 70s as a scarlet woman. And she wore that letter with pride and was always a thorn in the side of small-town gossip.
I recently read someone describe the process of living and aging as one having to “bear the weight of time,” And that gave me the feels. Maybe because of my age. Or perhaps it’s because I am surrounded by elders who I know have impending expiration dates. And it scares the shit out of my inner child because it means I will be left standing on the front lines. Alone.
Sitting on the edge of a hospital bed, looking into the face of a woman who wanted nothing more than the acknowledgement that her life mattered, I can report back from the trenches that the roads to the frontlines are rough and fraught with unimaginable terrors.
We laugh a lot about her missed opportunity to have me as her official daughter-in-law. And of course, the one that she does have never stood a chance against the memory of me. I can readily admit that. I gently remind her all the time that it would have ended, no matter when, and I view the ending of my relationship with her son as me having dodged a bullet Matrix style.
That is why our friendship so great. What I see as saving me, she views as having negatively impacted her life. And she truly believes in her heart that things would be different had I become her “official” daughter. She is also the second mother of an ex-lover who has plainly stated to me that their son has always been an asshole. Little consolation, but funny coming out of the mouths of seventy-something women. I do not share their beliefs because I have known for a long time now, in my heart of hearts, that neither son was ever the person for me.
Keep in mind, the drive home is down the same streets I drove as a kid and it’s very much returning to the scenes of the crimes. And as I drove I was overcome with nostalgia.
So here we are, words and the song that inspired it all on this rainy day.
Anyway, enjoy. No proof reading. just. hit. publish.