Updated: Mar 17, 2021
Delores and Evelyn , Sisters in the Eternal Twilight , 2007
By Bobby Padilla
Watercolor and Acrylic Collage, 14” x 18” (framed)
I try to remember the better things, but remembrance has a narrow scope. I try to make peace and reconcile who she was. Before the slow steady drumbeat of grief. Before the failed relationships, abuse and pain. Before being stranded with desolation in the lonely station that her life stalled out at. A woman whose name would irrevocably define a life of hardship and sorrow, Delores. On September 5th she would have been 86.
I wish I had boxes of pictures or keepsakes and family heirlooms, but I don’t. I have a handful of grainy off centered prints and the foggy memories of the seldom laughter and the quiet moments of just the both of us. I do have a letter she wrote me the night before I left for Baltimore to attend Maryland Institute College of Art. A constant reminder that no matter how I twist in my mind the way I was or wasn’t raised, my mother experienced a moment of concise clarity about how she felt about her youngest child and the evolution of our mother\child relationship.
Mom and Me on the day of my Sixth Grade Graduation, June 1983
And so it has come down to this. You are going, really going. Oh, you’ll be back. It isn’t as if I will never see you again. But when you return home you’ll come as a guest. For all practical purposes, you are gone for good. Though you’ll always remain in my heart, and be a member of family, nothing will be the same. You are your own person, making your own decisions.
All those platitudes I’ve heard, when you were born are now indisputable. “Hang on to every moment” before you know it, they’re gone. You were here for such a short time, and if I had my way I would hold you desperately and keep you here. You can’t understand that now, but you will. When your child educates you beyond any degree. You’ll cradle your baby in your arms, and unlike anything else you ever cared about will be pale to worthlessness. Your life, your being will focus on that child. You’ll be awash in a kind of love not often expressed articulately, because there are so few words for it.
I love you with all that is within me, with love beyond words. It may take weeks even months to adjust to you being gone. Much as I knew that preparing you for this day was a priority. I spent less time preparing myself. I know you’ll make me proud, because you already have.
At this transition, you need to know only one truth, nothing can tear us apart. Though there are many things you could do out there on your own to disappoint me or hurt me.
You are the parable of the prodigal son, I will stand scanning thee horizon, waiting for your return. Nothing you can ever do will make you other than my child. I will love you, cherish you and pray and stand ready. I wish I could approximate that love I wish to communicate to you. I want you to know that I love you more than anything on this earth. No matter what you do or don’t do, say or don’t say, start and may never finish, accomplish or don’t accomplish. You will always be my child. I will still love you. You may be gone from my home, but you are not gone from my heart, nothing can tear us apart.
Delores (far right) Evelyn and their Grandmother Edna, 1953
The end wasn’t pretty. The last years of mother’s life were spent immobile with too many afflictions to list, coupled with the onset of dementia. Worst of all, she probably didn’t remember all those profoundly touching words that she wrote to me. I was a punk kid who just tried to manage her everyday care in the shitty nursing home where she eventually expired.
So on September 5, I remember her. I try to remember the better things, but remembrance has a narrow scope. Now I use that scope to scan the horizon for a certain closure that escapes me everyday.
Delores (detail), 1953