The other morning SuperKash tweeted a haiku, with a reply from Zoe MCElligott:
@superkash follow up: Momma thus goes in Girl sobs, will only sleep on Mom Dad gets back to sleep
— Zoe McElligott (@nanopharmNC) September 25, 2015
My reply was:
It got me started thinking again about my mother. Not that I needed much prompting. She is not far from near the top of my thoughts, and I see her frequently. Here is what I wrote about her and her Alzheimer's disease.
As I have said, my mother was a powerful figure for me. But we did not get along when I was younger. Was she a good mother? How can anyone know? She fought against the legacy of her background of poverty and neglect, and tried to be a much better mother to me and my sibs than her mother was to her and her sibs. Both of her sibs ended up being alcoholics, although neither of their parents was. She fought against all of this to establish a different life for her, and for her children.
Part of why I write what I do is because she moves me so powerfully. There is no question that she supported me in my quest to be a scientist in a way that still blinds me with her love. There is no question that I would not be who I am, that I would not have succeeded in my career without her.
She was a brilliant researcher in her own right, establishing a now flourishing field at a time when people laughed at the idea of such a discipline. There is part of me that really, so very much, wants to talk about that. I want to link to her important publications and show what she did. But I can't, not and maintain my Potnia-identity, which makes me sad.
But there is something beyond that sadness in this decision. Now, you need to take my word on who my mother was. It forces me to find the words to convey her to you without falling back on the specifics of what she did. The latter is science - the data of what she did and how she did it when she did it. That would convince you. But would it convey the emotions of what I feel? What you begin to know my mother from that?
What I am doing is the former, finding the words. This is the power of literature. My haiku, dashed off in a minute needs editing. There are syllables I would tweak, words I would move. I'm not making a claim for great literature. But if I try to write and show and bring my mother to life with words, is it not more powerful? Is it not a better tribute to her this way?