My mother used to say that every time she saw chickens she thought of me. As an afterthought, she would add how much she hated chickens. This didn't happen once. It happened repeatedly. "Every time I see chickens, it just makes me think of you. Ug, I hate chickens!" It made me laugh every single time. One time I repeated it to her verbatim. A horrified look crossed her face as the she heard those two ideas side-by-side for the first time. "I suck. I am so sorry!" I laughed and explained that I understood. I loved my chickens. She saw chickens and thought of my love for chickens, then the thought of how much she hated chickens. A perfectly logical thought progression.
I've been thinking of my mom every time I see oleander. I loathe oleander. It's pokey and huge and poisonous. Terrible to try to
eradicate. But my mom loved it because her mom loved it. It thrives in
drought, a bright spot the drab brown of our Northern Californian
summers. But man, I hate that stuff.
At the beginning of August, my yvil sister and I buried my mother's ashes. Y had collected a batch of little trinkets to bury with her, the dogs' name tags, little charms with all of our birthstones, a rainbow girls thing-a-ma-bobber, and a Starbucks latte, prepared just the way my mom liked. I brought nothing.
She placed the plastic box of ashes in the hole and scattered her meaningful trinkets over and around the box, and wedged the latte in there. I went to the edge of the cemetery, picked some oleander blossoms, and placed them on top of the other things. They were lovely: poisonous, pokey and lovely.
They reminded me of my mom, of my relationship with my mom. Are there two different ways of looking at something? We'd take opposite stances. Sometimes that could get a little impassioned, hating something the other person loved. But always we loved each other, even when we were so angry (or hurt) we could hardly speak to each other.
When we had only days left, did we talk oleander or chickens? No. At the beginning of the end, when her capacity for speech was really winding down, she had one thing to tell me—I love you. When she was signing Christmas cards, she could hardly write her name, but she wrote IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou all joined together. She loved me. She hated chickens, homeschooling, attachment parenting, home birth, and the Mormon church, but she loved me. In the end, that love was all that mattered.