Sunday, May 11, 2014

Baby Mine

I usually hate the sight of graffiti, but today I spotted a message in the subway that looked as if it had been written just for me.

I was riding the N train and as we pulled into 36th Street—one stop short of my destination--I looked out through the open door and saw two words crudely painted across a pillar.

Love yourself.”

That’s it. Just a simple phrase, scrawled in black ink on a mustard-colored girder. But I felt like I had discovered the secret of life.

I paused for a second because I really wanted to get home and enjoy the sunshine, but I didn’t want to leave those words behind, not on this of all days.

So I jumped off the train, took out my smart phone and lined up a shot…

I thought I could get through Mother’s Day without any kind of emotional turmoil, but I wrong. Even though my mother has been gone for nearly 12 years, I still feel the pain of losing her.

It started earlier in the week when I walked into a Hallmark store near my office to get a birthday card for my sister and found myself gaping at three aisles full of Mother’s Day cards.

I was so overwhelmed that I actually grabbed the side of my head to steady myself. How I held on long enough to buy my sister’s card I’ll never know.

Sometimes I wish that we who have lost our mothers could have filters on our inboxes to block the emails advertising Mother’s Day specials; controls on our remotes to silence the “just right for Mom” TV commercials, and special blinders to keep us from seeing all those goddamn cards.

But I know that this is unnatural, that the pain is part of the gift we get for having our mothers, and that love and loss are inseparable.

I fear I’m becoming the Ebenezer Scrooge of Mother’s Day. I heard someone on Houston Street today call out “Happy Mother’s Day” and it was all I could do to keep from turning around and shouting, “shut the hell up!”

Guilt also plays a leading part in this day’s drama, as I tear into myself for not being a better son and vainly long for some way to undo all the stupid things I ever said or did to my mother.

Don't You Cry

This is a day for memories and one of the strongest goes back 30-odd years when I was first diagnosed with chronic fatigue. It was a little incident I came to call “The Dumbo Affair.”

At the time I was unemployed, so hideously sick I could barely move, and so filled with self-loathing I hated the sight of myself in the mirror.

My mother and I were sitting in the living room watching, yes, Dumbo, the famous Disney cartoon about a flying elephant.

I thought it might distract me from my illness, but I quickly discovered that it made matters much worse as I thought about how that, with my failing career and worsening health, I hadn’t progressed much since childhood.

I was trying to hold myself together, but when the song “Baby Mine” came on, when Dumbo’s imprisoned mother tries to comfort him, I fell to pieces and began sobbing uncontrollably.

“What’s the matter?” my mother said, obviously shocked at this outburst.

“I feel like a kid!” I wailed.

She was sitting a few feet away but her voice sounded so far away as she--like Dumbo’s mother did for her offspring--tried to comfort me.

I eventually calmed down, got hold of myself, and limped off the bed. But I knew I had upset my mother terribly and that just made me feel worse.

The next morning my mother came into my room to see how I was doing. I told I was I feeling a little better. As she walked toward the door, she turned back to say something.

“No more Dumbos,” she said softly.

No more Dumbos—no more abuse, no more toxic guilt, no more self-inflicted misery.

In other words, my mother was telling me to love myself...

I got my picture and hopped back on to the N train just as the doors were closing. The conductor was probably annoyed, and rightfully so, but I had to preserve the message.

This will always be a tough day for me and for all of those who have lost their mothers. If your mom is still with you, then hold her close, tell her you love here, and thank God for every second she’s here.

Happy Mother’s Day.


Bijoux said...

Speaking as a Mom, we only remember the good things about our children. It's easy to forget all the dumb stuff.

I hope your week is on the upswing.

Ron said...

"“Love yourself.”

That’s it. Just a simple phrase, scrawled in black ink on a mustard-colored girder. But I felt like I had discovered the secret of life."

Rob, isn't it amazing how sometimes a simple yet powerful message will come to us in the most unexpected ways???

I think it's awesome that you were immediately 'aware' of what this meant for you and that you took it within and came to this realization.

"In other words, my mother was telling me to love myself..."


I know you've read this on my blog before, but I honestly believe that love starts with self. Because when we love and accept ourselves (for everything we are and everything we've ever done or said or not said) out heart opens. And we allow love to flow inward and outward. But I truly believe that it starts with self-love.

So love yourself Rob. Because you have a lot of love in your heart.

GREAT post, buddy. As usual!

Have a super week!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron, what do you say?

You're so right when you say love starts with the self because if you don't love yourself, you won't be able to love anyone else--at least not in a healthy way.

Thanks for your kindness and support for all this time. I've certainly plenty of evidence of all the love you hold in your heart.

Take care buddy!

Rob K said...

@Bijoux--Happy Mother's Day!

Thank for that lovely comment, Bijoux. It went right to my heart! I must say that your children are very lucky to have you as their mother!

Take care!

Anonymous said...

I love the message and the picture you took. I am in a place similar to what you were when you watched the Dumbo movie and I have to remind myself everyday to love myself even when I dont feel very lovable. Luckily I have an amazing man who loves me even when I am not doing very good at loving myself. I am sorry this day is hard for you and just hope you have better days ahead!

v said...

i too hate graffiti but can see how you were drawn to those word. i really could stare at the photo for a long while.

i don't get too wrapped up in the holidays as they are so commercial. i hope to always show my mother every day that she is special regardless of what the calendar says.

your mom gave you great advice, no more dumbos. ;) hope things are better for you.

Rob K said...

Hey, Val, isn't that photo something? I'm so glad I jumped off the train to take it.

You're so right about being good to your mother EVERY day, as opposed to one day a year created by greeting card companies.

And thank you so much for your kind wishes! :)

Take care.

Rob K said...


Hey there!

You are incredibly lovable and don't let anyone tell you otherwise! I'm so happy that you have someone who makes you feel special, because, let's face it--you are!

Thanks for thinking of me and do take care!