Saturday, March 12, 2016

One Step At a Time

Teresa Joan Zellinsky, born March 16, 1946, died March 20, 1970.  No, this is not a late obituary, just some rambles on this fair day in March.  Not sure what category this blog should be sorted into, not sure what category any day needs to be sorted into of late, about all I am sure of lately is I have to wake up and get dressed. 
So, here I go again, after spending about half an hour trying to find myself in this site.  Be nice if finding myself always took about half an hour, not 62 years, or longer..... not sure if I've found myself at all yet.  And still, questioning that "self" thing again, not only as an artist do I question who I am,  it's an ongoing search of every role I play in this giant soap opera called life.  I realize, though, that one role in my life has changed, I am no longer a daughter.  Since Mom died in January, that role was taken away from me.  Strange feeling just typing that.
I think I have exhausted my Facebook friends with my posts on post-Mom-death, but I am consumed by what a profound change this has been on my life, all of our family's lives I am sure, but I really only know my own perspective on this one.  The way I see my life through my memories and daily goings from point A to Z, my view, my thoughts, selfish as that may be, I accept that I am allowed to ponder my own views.  Through the many many many days and hours of going through Mom's lifetime of collections, I have gone back to times I had forgotten, and that one main one is what happens when someone dies.  I found that Mom's death was a grief I recalled that I experienced for the first time in my life, our sister, Teresa, who died in 1970 at the age of 24. 
 Teresa, or "Zaz", was the eldest of our family of 5 kids.  She and Mom had an incredible bond that was not only held together with love, but a sense of humour that raised the roof daily with the sound of laughter.  I was 8 years younger than Teresa.  Between us were one brother, Stephen, then Jane, then me, then baby sis, Chris.  Larger than life personalities, pretty hard to get heard in our house when we were all together.  I think fondly of the chaos, the insane laughing that I must admit, at my young age, I didn't really get.  It takes living experience to understand humour, especially sarcastic and self deprecating humour, which Mom and Teresa and Stephen and Jane were so sharp with.  Sure, I'd find myself doubled over laughing and gasping, too, but I'm glad no one asked me to explain what was so funny, I would not have been able to explain it.
So, what happened to Teresa?  I still wonder that.  I have found bits of what Mom saved of Zaz's, the odd letter, funny cards, photos, a few things.  Those things accompanied with that familiar pain of loss that I am experiencing with Mom dying seem to have woken up some dark corners in my brain.  One might say their spirit is with me telling me things, or maybe I just blocked things out for so long, I wouldn't allow myself to think about them, that could be it.  Heaven knows, I was the horrible teenager who was rebelling at the same time Teresa got pulled off her tracks of sensibility.  Unlike my three older siblings, I was plotting how to become a flower child in the Haight/Ashbury area in San Francisco.  Bad ass, that was me.  Why, at 14, I even ran away from home.  Yes, that's terrible, what a terrible thing to do to my parents, and my siblings, selfish and for no reason, other than being totally mesmerized by flower-power ideal at that time.  I do recall, tho, thinking no one would notice I was gone.  Not saying that to inspire sympathy, that was just a fact.  The very big and wonderful personalities that lived in our house were of their own world, to get heard among them was pretty much impossible, so I didn't even try.
So, what happened to Teresa?  I wish I knew.  By 1970, I was still being a dense teenager, my poor parents.  And now, something was going on with Teresa.  It was her turn to be lost.  I think of Jann Arden saying " sometimes it's so hard just being a person " and that seems to explain my memories of that time.  And now that I am a mother of adult kids, I know all too well the worry and fear of my kids not being happy.   Mom and Zaz were struggling a lot.  Like a parent knows, frustration and fear makes us do all kinds of crazy things, hoping to fix things with yelling, or grounding, or ANYTHING to make things feel right.  I can see now how badly it all fell apart for Mom and Dad, all of us, the unravelling just seemed to be unstoppable, and one day, we were faced with being told, Teresa was gone.
How did we recover from that tragedy?  We didn't, nothing was ever the same since then, nothing ever felt right, but we survived, I guess.  Dad sat and stared, day in day out, stared into the quiet in his chair in the corner of the room.  We kids carried on with our lives as best we knew how.  I think back to that sick emptiness I am feeling now with Mom gone, that waking from nightmares into a living nightmare.  We should all have had counselling, but didn't.  We carried on.  What bothers me most now, is knowing what kind of grief Mom was going through, and still bravely, carrying on as Mom.  Once the initial agonizing chaos was over, she carried on.  She didn't wail and cry, not in front of us, not that I recall.  What pain she must have suffered, totally distant from Dad, her best friend/daughter gone, being a mom myself, I can't imagine that kind of pain.  Siblings are not children, I do not have the same kind of love for my siblings as I do my kids.  I know I would not be as strong as Mom in getting through, not over, but through those times.  I want to tell my Mom how sorry I am for so many things.  If there are spirits of the dead, I hope she hears me.
Death.  We know it will happen, but not ever when.  I think I've learned over the past ten years that the most important way to prepare for death is to live well.  Whatever that means is pretty complicated and vague, but I did learn (eventually) that I wanted to be exactly who I was to Mom.  I think I was a caring daughter, but I know I did complain when things got hard for me.  I know I lost friends with my continual whining over having to take Mom to the store, have to go to Mom's, have to... have to.... have to... did I really have to?  Now, I know why I put in the time I did with Mom, I wanted to.  Not one second was ever a waste of time, a few may have been infuriating here and there, confusing now and then, but not a waste, no such things as a waste of time when we spend it with our moms.
Yes, Jann Arden, being a person is the hardest part of life.  I sit here today, trying to put the present day into perspective once again.  I understand I am not perfect, never have been, never tried to be.  But I try to be as honest as I possibly can be.  I look a mess, I am overweight, my hair is too long, my face shows the signs of age and grief, but none of those things matter.  My soul is strong and wise and reliable.  As in life, Mom relied on me, and so I continue to follow that path.  Call me names, a disgusting cow, pathetic, unstable, sick loser, low class, I don't care.  I know who I am, and I am thankful for every ugly piece of it.
Thank you, Mom.


  1. Wow - you do write beautifully Mary Ann. That piece reached my soul. It brought back so much for me - how hard my mum worked when she was a single parent to four of us, how I grieved when my BFF died in 2006, how I grieved when my BFF died when I was 16. I hope you keep blogging - I must try to find mine again. Therre is so much to say about life.

    1. Hey, Joy, there you are in Blogland, glad you left this comment. Thank you, the writing seems to open up a lot of emotional areas for me that is both cathartic, and motivating, in a way, not sure if "motivating" is the correct word, just feels right sometimes to write. Who knows if I'll be back here doing this before I forget how to get into this site again lol I hope so. Thanks again!

  2. Yes, you do write well, touching memories we can all relate to. One of my lasting personal regrets is the for terror and grief I caused my parents when I walked out the door for a month at age 16.

    1. Thanks, Jean. I had a huge amount of guilt for years, until I had teenagers of my own that is, then I realized we weren't awful people, we were just young and dumb, I forgave myself, I know how much I was loved, I felt that same love for my own kids. Life lessons come in all different ways. I'm thankful.