Tone Shift

Lately I’ve had a lot of reasons to bring up my upbringing. A lot of my justification for my life, my choices, my ambition, the things I decide to care about, come from having been raised by a single mom. Sometimes I worry that my mom shows up too often in my writing. I worry that she has become some strange crutch for me to lean on, but the truth is, she is a lot of who I am. I know a lot of my regular readers may like that, because they knew her and anyone who knew her likely enjoys reading about her. She was prolific. As a friend, a sibling, a daughter, a partner, an employee, and for me, her greatness as a mother was and is immeasurable. She set the bar high.

I remember once I was writing something about my dad. I was writing it all down, trying hard to capture a complex event that had happened. It was a heavy piece and honestly, I don’t think it was very good, but I had mom read it. I wanted her to edit it for me and she did. I remember I got her email back and she had said something about how when I got to the more emotional parts, my writing suffered, it became all cliché and melodrama. That was the first time I’d ever gotten that criticism, it stung.  But now, I look for that problem in every bunch of words I spit out.

I went back and read some of the stuff I wrote just after the accident and I see it. I really struggled to capture the emotional subtleties that I usually prize myself on. The best thing I wrote in those initial months was a bit about Mother’s Day being founded in WV. This was the bit.

The whole world gets prettier. As hippie dippie as it sounds, each year when the flowers start to bloom and everything turns green, I feel my spirit being lifted. Just a moment of the windows down breezing through town can make my day.

This year, that awakening feels raw. My mom died in September of last year. Her last days were some of the last pretty ones of 2016. The world turned gray and cold and became winter. I turned in and weathered it.

Some of my biggest fears have been events she would have certainly been there for. The holidays, Mother’s Day.


Did you know it was founded here in West Virginia just south of Grafton? 20 minutes from my mom’s house. She drove by it for years on her way to and from work.

My favorite thing about that bit is that I take such a jolted turn from the personal to the impersonal, hearing my own voice read those words. My whole tone shifts abruptly. After I say MOTHER’S DAY, I turn into a callous historian all of the sudden. The reason I love that shift is because it sounds crazy, and that’s exactly how I wanted it to sound. Crazy.

I think about my mom typing the words to me, “In the emotional moments, you seem to lose focus and get distracted by the language.” I think of her typing those things and then I think about all the pieces I’ve written with a wet face, tears clinging to my chin before they drip onto my keyboard or legal pad. I think of all the writing I’ve done about her these past two years. I think about this piece. And then I think, watch out for the flowery talk of pain. It’s all been written before.

I don’t have much more to say about my mom’s death. I have plenty more to write about her life but I am worn out on her death.

I’m sick of my writing suffering.

I’m sick of writing suffering.