The other thing they don't know is how it feels to read this story as a mother. I try to avoid the condescending "One day, you'll understand" kind of stuff because I remember how infuriating I found such comments as a youth. However, it is something I am aware of - just how much they can't know about having a child and considering losing a child. Close to the end, the mother (Janet) is talking to her husband about their loss.
"It's so wrong," she said angrily. She hadn't felt angry until that moment; she had saved it up for him. "A child shouldn't die before his parents. A young man shouldn't spend his early thirties wasting away talking to his mother. He should be out in the world. He shouldn't be thinking about me, or what I care about, or my opinions. He shouldn't have had to return my love to me - it was his to squander. Now I have it all back and I don't know what I'm supposed to do with it," she said.This passage provides the expected response (a child shouldn't die before his parents) that reflects an understanding of the natural order of things. But it goes beyond that expected answer into a truth I had never considered before I encountered this story. A mother's job is often called thankless. The work we do is often overlooked or disregarded, even by ourselves. We invest so much in our children, and some of us become bitter at how little return we receive on that investment. Thankfully, I am not often plagued by such a feeling, but I've never been able to put a finger on why. I've always just said, "That's my job. It's the most important work I do, and I don't expect to be thanked for just doing my job." Now, I have a language to speak about it more fluently, a currency with which to complete this transaction. I pour out what I can upon my children with the hope they will spend it wisely but with no expectation they will return what I gave. It is theirs to squander. What a beautiful gift we can give. And what a tragedy to have that gift returned too soon.
Every semester, when we read this story, I swear that I should read more of Dark's work. She is an author I know nothing more about beyond this amazing story. So, I visited Amazon to find out more about her work and noted a few things I would like to get my hands on. In the process, I found that HBO made a medium-length film version of this story starring Glenn Close and Robert Sean Leonard. Reading the synopsis frustrates me and makes me feel it can't be as good as the story, but perhaps I will give it a try. Anyone seen it? Have an opinion?