Too Late I Realized that my Mother’s Legacy would be her Sons. I had faded from her View.
charcoal and ink
13 x 11 in.
I am still trying to make sense of all the revelations about gender preferences that came to light in my mother’s final days and during the last year and a half of trying to settle my parents’ estate as co-executor with one of my brothers. I had vaguely recognized some gender discrimination in the way our large old southern family treated its sons and daughters, but my parents never acknowledged it, and I had always felt loved and valued. I had written some of the attitudes off to being a generation caught between eras when it came to expectations for women, but the reality was far more pervasive and devastating as my parents approached the end of their lives.
I was the first-born, and my sister and I completed both undergraduate and graduate degrees and lived successful lives that my parents took great pride in even though they had at first refused to send their daughters to college. We were expected to get married and raise children (which we did), but not prepare for careers. My younger brothers barely got out of high school, already showing signs of the alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling and violence that continued throughout their lives. And yet, these sons were so important that they dominated my parents hopes and thoughts to the exclusion of their own comfort and the safety and happiness of all of us. Even though I was still there trying to help care for my mother under constant threat of violence from the brother who depended on her, I became invisible – fading from her view in her final weeks as she succumbed to metastatic breast cancer in 2017, worrying to the very end about her sons.
© Frederica Diane