March 13, 2013
My mother died a few weeks ago.
Though the timing was a little off-putting, her passing wasn’t unexpected. She was inflicted with many illnesses, both physically and mentally. Her kitchen cabinet was filled with insulin, baskets of bottles of pills, and ointments and it was only a matter of time that the “better living through chemistry” was going to wear out. She was a difficult woman to say the least and therefore, difficult to be her daughter.
“We’re all victims of victims,” as Dr. Louise Hay says and my mother and I were no exceptions, though I prefer to live as a “survivor” rather than just a victim.
However, I remember times when she was stable and her mind was clear of whatever clutter she stored there and she really shone. My mother, at her best was highly intelligent, well-spoken, powerful in many ways, a fighter, a giver, and even could be pretty funny. Beloved memories of playing some really “friendly, cut-throat” Scrabble while watching Law & Order or West Wing while I did laundry still warm my heart, as her coveted sheepskin slippers now warm my feet. I believe those moments reflected who she really was, her real truth, and it was beautiful. She was beautiful.
But, those moments, unfortunately were far and few between as we got older and I made a point to make myself stronger, while she succumbed to her weaknesses. Her passing brought sadness, anger, confusion, clarity…even (Goddess forgive me) freedom.
She claimed she knew her children better than we knew ourselves, but she frequently got her facts mixed up, usually due to a rather biased or slanted perspective. But the three constant truths she resigned about me was my art, my psyche, and Iron Maiden…
…of which, to her credit, she once said, “Well, at least it wasn’t KISS.”
So much so, she and my dad arranged for me, my best friend, and my little sister to see Maiden with Twisted Sister (World Slavery Tour) in 1984, my first concert ever. I was 14 and I had already been bitten and smitten with Eddie for over a year.
Music is the universal language, but just as with any other form of communication, some speech hits closer to home than others. I believe we choose our art that speaks to us, though others just know how to get our attention. Music elevates my soul and sparks my flames. I have always needed my ears to see clearly. And when I discovered Maiden, as it happened, I was not having an easy time, blinded by my circumstances – bullied for being too big, too smart, too this or too that, just for starters.
There was one lonely copy of “The Number of the Beast” sitting on the shelf at the record store and I was so bedazzled by the colors…the way that “thing” was staring at me with this badass, toothy grin. I had heard of Iron Maiden before, but never actually heard them and I gambled my last 10 bucks to buy that last copy.
If being introduced to The Goddess was the most majickal moment in my life, then listening to that album is extremely close second.
Now, I’m not saying that I think all their mothers were seduced by swans. But, somehow, someway for over 30 years – perhaps there’s a frequency or a pulse in the undertones that are synonymous with my personification of the divine, who knows? – at every rite of passage and trial-by-fire, their song randomly, almost miraculously, seems to appear. And when it does, I lose the moment and allow myself to get swallowed by the healing leviathan of their sound, singing along to the lyrics, and just enjoy until it’s over.
And when the last note rings, everything seems to be okay again.
As any Rivethead will contend, they are considered to be the “Bach” of metal. No costumes, no make-up, no sexism or degrading antics. Just a band of very nice, intelligent, immensely gifted British gentlemen making some of the most beautiful art in the world, the extraordinary in the ordinary. And Eddie, their great mascot, is the glory of immortal “magnificent ugliness.” That corpse has been on the streets, electrocuted, buried alive, been to hell, been to war, been to space, had his brain removed (and consumed), and dammit, he’s still here!
Kinda like me. Kinda like a lot of us…
And today, their former drummer, Clive Burr, after a long fight with MS, had passed away in his sleep. Though I knew of him and about him, I never knew him. But, he played on that masterpiece that introduced me to their gift and the heaviness in my heart is so deep, I just can’t seem to keep the tears back.
Tears I didn’t seem to have for my mother. And yet, ironically, I think she would’ve understood my sentimental silliness…
And now I truly begin to miss her.
And then I remember that she died on their guitarist, Adrian Smith’s birthday. Coincidence? Trust me, don’t you believe it. If you knew her the way I do, you too would swear it was just another way for her to get in the last word: “I wanted to make sure you didn’t fa-get when I died!”
Good-bye, Mr. Clive.
Good-bye, Mom. Rest in peace…please.