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Tales of a Mama’s Boy

By |2007-05-10T09:00:00-04:00May 10th, 2007|News|

My mom told me she wanted to be cremated. That was just a few weeks ago, as she and I united for a rare dinner-table supper. But, without the slightest warning, the typical how-was-work chat abruptly spiraled into an unnerving speech about my mom’s burial arrangements.
It’s a conversation we all avoid. A conversation that’s as squirm-worthy as we imagine it. Just as she said the words, as casual as playing evening catch-up, she began it with, “I don’t want anything fancy.”
Mom never wanted anything adorned in gold trim. Sure, she’s a straight-laced clean freak, but she’s the most selfless person I know. As a tot, when I was urged, er, forced to engage in more-macho activities – soccer, T-ball and bowling (that’s the gayest it got) – mom’s motherly instinct told her, “This kid is not going to be the next Babe Ruth.”
I was content with coloring in Snow White, collecting My Little Ponies and playing with Barbie’s Dreamhouse at my neighbor friend’s house. Mom knew that. She reminded me that I’m my own director. Of course, at the time, she didn’t want to leave too much room for self-power, so those weren’t quite her words. But that’s why, as a 16-year-old, her speech – along with a teenage-change book that included a lengthy memo from her that told me to make myself happy first and no matter what, she’ll be there – lowered the shock level when she said she had a hunch that I was gay. OK, hunch is a bit of an understatement. Let’s just say, she knew.
I can’t recall what she was watching when I mosied into her room, stretching over the left side of the bed – the part my father used to occupy before they got divorced. The only noise in her bedroom was the babbling coming from the program she was watching, and the one that increasingly became a blur to me.
“I have to tell you something,” I said, my voice cracking at every chance it could. We sat there for what seemed to be longer than an entire primetime TV lineup. I shuffled around on the bed – sitting back, leaning forward – as if that might help me spit out the words. She graciously opened up the conversation by telling me, “Sure, you can tell me anything.”
I scoured my mind for distractions – blocking what would be the inevitable two words that were trapped inside of me like a butterfly caught in a net.
I wanted to hurl. I wanted to run out and continue hiding a part of me that everyone else, except my father, knew. The words seemed to find an escape in unison with my tears dropping onto her bed.
“I’m gay,” I quickly stammered.
“I know.” She said it with such assurance that I immediately felt like that butterfly – except free to fly, free to love, free to live under my own rules. “And I love you just the same,” she continued, stealing an extended embrace – one that said more than words could have.
If coming out changed our relationship at all, it brought us closer. Now, I knew I could share anything. Anything. And that’s a powerful reminder that unconditional love goes further than our power to doubt.
My mom’s a rock – one I leaned on to overcome sexuality issues, my parents’ divorce and a self-esteem battle. There were shimmering memories, like when my mom trekked with me to Chicago to see – for the first time – my inspiration at the time, Mariah Carey. There were moments when the storm didn’t seem to wane, like my parents’ sudden split when I was in high school.
My mind’s an abyss of memories. Not always shining ones, but within those rough waves I recall the woman who yanked me out of them – and who will continue to do so until, like she noted several weeks ago, she dies.
Mom wants to be cremated – her ashes separated into mini-keepsake urns for three people: my younger brother, her best friend and myself. Those pieces of her will be a reminder. A bittersweet token of a woman who didn’t judge me, who never ran low on “I love you,” and who will continue to bury herself deep in my heart until the day I can look back on my life and say I did the same for my own children.

{TAGLINE Chris Azzopardi is the entertainment editor for Between The Lines. He wishes his mom – and all the others who unconditionally love – a Happy Mother’s Day. To reach him, send an e-mail to [email protected]}

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi is the Editorial Director of Pride Source Media Group and Q Syndicate, the national LGBTQ wire service. He has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, GQ and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.
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