Anne Rice died today and I can’t help but think that this is one more piece of my mother gone from me. I remember reading Lasher over a decade ago and my mother and I discussing it and being mesmerized by the rich history and dynamics she created between a family of women and this entity that was attached to them. So much of the novel was about womanhood and motherhood and I don’t think that mattered to me then as much as it does now that my mother is no longer here.
When Eric Jerome Dickey died in January of this year, my mom was the first person I thought of. I had no clue that 6 months later she would be gone too. One summer long ago, a copy of The Other Woman took over our house. My mother, my sister, and I ravaged this lone copy and we discussed it forward and backward. We all loved his nuance and how he handled these black women with care. More than anything, the story showed how the actions of one person create a ripple effect and that was something that we knew to be all too true. I didn’t mourn Dickey as much as I would have if I had known that I wouldn’t have my mother here to rehash his words or analyze his characters with.
I always take the loss of authors personally. I don’t know if it’s because I am an author or because I love books so much, but when an author I read and loved dies, I grieve. This year, and all the years after, I suppose, will be harder because the person who taught to me to love reading and who read so many books with me, is gone. My mother was my first favorite author. She weaved together stories every night, creating fairytales that offered my sisters and me a chance to be represented or taught us an alternative to waiting for a prince. My mother was constantly reading to us and always had a book in her reach. When we were able to write our names, each of us kids celebrated the moment with a trip to the library to get our first library card. My mother always made sure that if there were restrictions for youth cards that the librarians didn’t censor us. If we wanted a book that was deemed salacious, my mom encouraged us to read it and to talk to her about it if we were confused or overwhelmed. In another article I have, Attic to Attic, I discuss how Flowers in the Attic prepared me for the likes of The Bluest Eye and Jane Eyre. I know if it had not been for my mom’s consistent encouragement of any and all books, I would not be the scholar I am now.
I haven’t finished a single book since my mom died in July. I’ve bought books. I’ve checked out books from the library. I’ve got books sitting in my kindle app now. I’ve started several books and haven’t finished a single one. I watched a story I had no idea would ever end come to an abrupt halt. I AM an unfinished story. I can no longer discuss with her the plots or the characters or the hidden motivations.
My mother served as the first tether between me and this world and then she was my first guide into the worlds that literature creates. When she died, I felt untethered but I still knew how to cross over into those other worlds and lands that offered comfort. In writing this, I have come to realize that I cannot finish the stories I have started because I am not yet ready (or even capable) of leaving behind the safety of another magical world. While these books sit unfinished, their worlds and characters are in limbo, unable to die but not really living. Although I know the waste of the latter, I cannot face the devastation of the former so I just sit by, placing worlds and lives on hold until I know how to move forward with my own life.
To the families of Anne Rice and Eric Jerome Dickey, I offer you my deepest condolences.