On the third anniversary of my mother's death, she knocked on my apartment door. I was surprised to see her looking so good after her years in the grave. Aside from a certain meaty odor, you might have thought she'd returned from a weeklong camping trip.
"Why haven't you called me?" she asked.
For a moment, I thought she was serious, but then I caught the joke. Yes, at her best, a boundaryless mother can ignore minor things like mortality and physics.
She inspected my studio with the sad-ass wall bed that I hadn't shoved back into the damn wall since I'd moved into the place.
"You live in a terrible neighborhood," she said. "And this is a terrible apartment. What happened to you?"
"Got laid off a year ago," I said. "Been living on unemployment and food stamps."
"So much for that PhD," she said.
I used to be the poster boy for the American meritocracy, the reservation Indian boy whose thesis, "A Variety Show of Sinners: The De(con)structive Spirituality of the American Entertainment Conspiracy," got him a tenure track position at Eastern Washington University.
Yeah, I was, and am, a smart motherfucker.
I would have loved to say that I boozed my way out of the university, but I couldn't bother to live down to that stereotype. No, due to a Neapolitan ice cream tub of intellectual arrogance, racial inferiority complex, and poverty guilt, I simply stopped moving. Officially, I'm bipolar, but I think every damn Indian is bipolar. Colonialism causes manic-depression.
"What happened to you?" my mother asked again.
I paraphrased Viktor Frankl. "The best of us did not survive the reservation. It was the liars, cheaters, and thieves who lived."
"Fuck that," my mother said. "And fuck you."
She hugged me. I hugged her back.
"The thing is," she said, "I can't even haunt this shitty apartment. It's new construction. You can't haunt something that doesn't have history."
Jesus, there are constant opportunities to change your life. And it takes a certain genius to ignore all of them.