This piece is heavily weighted in symbolism. I'm curious as to how much you get.
Mama lived with demons others didn't see.
She would not recognize them, ignored their existence.
Until they rose up in darkness from her dreams to sit beside her,
feeding her desperate need for denial.
Feelings, emotions, her essence passing through coal-black holes
where their hearts should have been.
Battle to battle she drew on her strength, forcing them back into the folds.
Willing her mouth to smile, she could not convince her eyes.
Her upturned lips like a jack-o-lantern's,
candle shining from an empty soul, while her spirit regrouped.
A warrior alone, for few could tell the difference,
life's ebb and flow the battleground.
She built the walls to keep them in, not others out.
But bastards they were, and served dual masters.
To let them down meant sure defeat, and her warrior's heart could not bear the thought.
So up they stood, battleships on the ground, guns ready to engage within or without.
And she cried inside,
inconsolable in the vacuum.
A woman of intense strength, my mother fooled the masses around her day after day. Mental health was not discussed at the time, except under hushed tones, in the back of dark closets. Those nearest to her knew the shifts, of course, but saw only the symptoms of a nameless imperfection.
And perfection was the glowing apple, a red-hot trophy to be grabbed with both hands, ignoring the searing heat.
She had but one fear: that her body would outlast her mind. I alone knew the combination, the safe where she locked dread away. But I didn't know what to do with the knowledge, too young to understand. How could a woman so brilliant, so vibrant, a woman determined to keep her mind sharp, fear losing it? It must be a stage she's going through, I thought.
But it wasn't a stage.
Once we four left the house, removed her most arduous responsibilities, she settled somewhat, eased into her role as grandmother, snuggled into it like a nursing baby. Daddy said their connection had never been stronger, and I could see it, hear it in her voice when she called on Sunday nights.
Still, the demons would sometimes stir, catching her off-guard, and the inconceivable pain would creep its way up, slithering from her gut, inching its way toward her heart. Her demons knew, and so did she, that her unguarded heart held the key to her mind. Yet, while years had slowed her response, her resistance lost no vigor, her defense no force.
She was able to fend them off for a while, resorting to old tactics, tired schemes from her past. Until the final blow. From a clandestine cave, the walnut-sized dragon soared, stripping her strength and draining her resolve.
In the end it was she who won the war. St. Peter himself reached down and saved her, grabbed her too early everyone said. Clutching her to him, he whisked her away, safe for all time from the snares, the debris, the unfathomable weariness that accompanied her through Hell. The Hell she maneuvered in life.
Hindsight is a compass that points us to truth, hiding most often within our clear vision. When I opened the safe her secret awakened, a granite tablet, golden script in solid, steady hand.
Her fear lay not in losing her mind . . .
. . . she feared she already had.