My Mother kept not-so subtly correcting us in her sweet/stern well practiced ‘I’m not raising my voice but you will listen to what am saying’ tone, that raising five kids made her very good at. That voice might sound deceptively calm to an outsider but when one of us kids heard it, we knew she meant business. This was the precursor to the dreaded count to three or the occasional outright roar and no one wanted her to get to that level of anger if it could be avoided. As always, that day we paid attention.
Even more than her single raised eyebrow glare, that little voice inflection had enough power to get us to immediately stop messing around, correct our behavior and often even redirect us towards getting some pre-assigned chore completed. Nowadays we still react to it, not for fear of punishment but more from a highly trained conditioned reflex.
Back when my Mom was doing most of the heavy lifting bringing us up, as was typical in the Mesozoic Era when I was young, she was like an amazing Grand Master in the art of child wrangling with that voice. Of course you have to give us kids credit too; we did give her lots and lots of opportunity to hone the skill. If she could teach that voice to the United Nations’ world leaders, I’m confident they could stop wars. Or at least stop them long enough for everyone worldwide to clean up their rooms and maybe get the dishes done. Hell, with enough conditioning my Mother could get Putin, Trump, Kim Jong-un and Robert Mugabe to stop their sword rattling and sit together for a few light hearted rounds of Hungry Hungry Hippos before declaring a new era of world peace.
Through my Mom’s physical and emotional pain I recognized that very same voice as she kept repeatedly saying “this is not a funeral, it’s a celebration of his life”. Even as we were standing in the cemetery about to inter her son’s / my brother’s ashes into the columbarium niche, she pulled out the old secret weapon voice to make sure everyone was treating the grievous occasion in an easier to deal with more positive way. More than just teaching us good behavior, she has always made taking care of us and making sure we are happy the top priorities in her life.
The voice must have worked because despite the astoundingly depressing occasion my three remaining somber siblings and me still made bad aside jokes to each other during the ‘non-funeral life celebration’ while they were placing the remains in the marble wall. Don’t think bad of us, that is just what my family does. It has always been how we deal with this kind of stuff. I am confident my brother wouldn’t have wanted it any other way and were he there, he would have joined us in the ‘too soon’ jokes.
That day also assuredly proved again that as a family we are much better at burying our emotions then each other. That does not mean we do not ‘feel’. As a family we just don’t talk a lot about touchy feely mushy stuff. I am a product of a different generation when Mothers handle the kids and stoic Fathers prove their love by working a zillion hours a week putting food on the family table (that we ate all together for dinner with no outside distractions). Dads didn’t repeatedly whisper I love you to their kids, instead it was a known underlying fully implied thing.
This still is true. If I gave a warm bear hug greeting to anyone in my family besides my Mother, they would look at me like I had joined some small off-shore island mind controlling free-love hippy fringe religion cult (which based on the current election outcome, might not be out of the question). We don’t say it and show it in obvious ways but we very much love each other and would do anything for each other… except wear our emotions on our sleeve.
A friend of mine recently had gotten concerned about me and in turn, the level of our friendship. They called me out on my becoming increasingly more non-communicative this year. Granted I started the year in January with my brother’s “not a funeral celebration of his life” (damn Mom’s good, that voice is still in my head making sure I call it the right thing) and followed it up with a forced work change from my dream job, a major move, a couple of very serious family illnesses, and, and… well let’s say it has not gotten much easier. But friendships, like any of the other ‘ships’ (relationship, internship, championship, workmanship…) take effort and if they are ignored or are one-sided they become less shipshape and sink.
Sometimes the obvious is not so obvious and that little bubble we wrap ourselves in for protection gets tougher and stronger and harder to see through and hidden behind a couple of walls and… I’m just saying it’s not a bad thing when someone calls you out on the woe is me bullshit.
When it is my ‘not a funeral/celebration of his life’ and people stand up and talk about me, I want them to have a hard time deciding which story or adventure or fun thing to choose from. I don’t want anyone to have to dig way far back to glory days of the distant past. Yes life is never easy and sometimes things really, really suck. But if I close my eyes I can hear my Mom’s voice, The Voice. And it’s telling me to ‘hup two skid-do’. And I don’t know exactly what the hell that means but I’m sure it has something to do with getting my head out of ass, not getting overwhelmed by the crap and enjoying all the amazingly good that is around me. And I better do it because I do not want to hear her start to count.