Sunday, July 02, 2006

The good angel

My mother came to visit us in June. She stayed for two weeks to help us figure out colors and whatnot for the remodel we are doing of our house. Here she is conferring with Kristina on colors for our bathroom.

But she also helped us with Maia. My mother is a remarkable person, one of those people who is a real force in the lives of all who know them. Once, after someone had poked fun at her southern accent, I asked her if that didn't bother her. She smiled at me and said, "I just let 'em think I'm some old Southern fool."

The main thing is that she has a lot of love in her heart. That's what gives her such an impact.

She's always had a soft spot for Maia. I think she identifies with her because during the Depression, her family was probably one of the poorest in one of the poorest towns in West Virginia. Not a town, really. Literally, just a wide spot in the road. New Hall. She thinks of Maia's roots in the orphanage as being like hers in New Hall, in a material sense anyhow.

This time she saw for the first time the challenges that Maia can present, and how frustrated and impatient we become with her. Her response was to be firm with Maia when she was acting aggressively and to talk to her about the "Good Angel" and the "Bad Angel." "Don't you listen to that Bad Angel," she advised her. "You say, 'Get off my shoulder, Bad Angel,'" and she flicked at her own shoulder to show her how.

It wasn't only that. But the Good Angel and the Bad Angel have become ways of talking about behavior for Maia, and for us, too, that separate Maia from the behavior. And chasing the Bad Angel off her shoulder gives Maia a switch to throw that lets her move from being "bad" to being "good."

Here are some pictures of Maia and my mother playing on the swing in the backyard of our house, the one that's being remodelled. Maia calls it the "broken house."

My mother is indomitable. She has an optimism and sense of humor that won't let things get her down for too long. About 25 years ago, she had a brain tumor removed from her brain stem. That resulted in paralysis to the left side of her face and the loss of her hearing in her left ear. She's had hip surgery, and surgery on her knees and feet. She's dealt with chronic pain for a lot of different reasons since the brain tumor.

And yet at 80, she's still projecting the same powerful and positive presence she's always had in our lives.

John, Sunday, July 2, 2006


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