Today marks the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death. I’ve watched R. Kelly’s video of “I Wish” (in which he laments the loss of his mother) more than once today, both alone and with my kids. It is somehow comforting to me to listen to a grown man still struggling to come to terms with a parent’s death even years after the fact (though it bodes ill for any prospect of this getting any easier with time). Kelly captures the sense of helplessness, bewilderment, resignation that seems unavoidable whenever you think too much about your lost loved ones. For me the only way not to feel these sensations all the time is to avoid pondering the loss too much. So though my mom is always present in my thoughts, in my family’s conversations, in our dreams, I try not to dwell on the what-ifs of her death, nor conversely on the sheer inevitability of death for us all.
Ironically, this anniversary also falls on the day after Mr. Kelly posted bond to get outof jail pending his trial for sexual abuse of minors. It is a sordid affair, and I don’t give him a pass for any of it. I obviously don’t have an answer to the question of how much, if at all, we can honor the art of a person without condoning that person’s actions in the real world. On top of this, what is a mainly philosophical question for cases like Wagner or Rick James, is complicated further when an artist is still alive and benefits economically from your patronage of his art. But with all that, R. Kelly is what I felt like listening to to console me today.
For a white woman who came of age in 1950s Wisconsin, reared on the Chordettes (though also admittedly on Sam Cooke), my mom was very much in tune with 21st century pop culture trends. When I turned 33, she told me that at that age Christ saved the world and Tupac had already been dead for 8 years, so I had a lot to live up to. I think she’d get a kick out of sharing her 1-year anniversary with news of R. Kelly’s post-bail trip to McDonald’s. I can see her laughing and yelling about how gross he is, and dishing on the latest news with my wife, who only indulged in tabloid gossip with my mom.
My few loyal readers will have noted that I haven't posted anything on this blog for a month or so. I've been vacillating between wanting to share lots of ideas and impressions with the world at large, and then feeling more in the mood for silent reflection. Mom was a writer though, and I feel like she's pushing me to take up the pen in a more disciplined way again.