I was watching Anderson Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, talk about the book they wrote together.
In the interview, Cooper said that he “realized there were many things that neither of them actually knew about the other. We decided, on her 91st birthday, to change the conversation that we have and the way we talk to each other.”
“According to Vanderbilt, it was all done by email.”
“‘I think we’re both at a place where both of us didn’t want to leave anything unsaid,’ Cooper added.”
It struck me, HARD, that there are plenty of things that I never asked my mom, because… well, I don’t know, actually. Maybe it’s because she often spoke as though she were reading from the same script.
I’d ask her how she was doing, and invariably she’d say “busy but good.” Busy with what? Sometimes I’d get an answer, but more often than not, a response that really didn’t answer the question.
If I could ask her now, on this Mother’s Day 2016, I think I’d want to know:
*How were you punished as a child? Did they use corporal punishment?
She was an only child, surrounded by her mother, aunt, grandmother, and sometimes, an uncle, so she didn’t get away with much.
She didn’t like to give corporal punishment, that’s for sure. She was pressured by my father, who, especially when he was working nights at IBM, didn’t always want to be the disciplinarian hours after the fact.
One time, she actually struck me on the butt. But you can tell her heart wasn’t in it.
*How is it that you never learned to cook?
Your mother and aunt could cook.
*Were my sisters and I breastfed?
I suspect not, because the convention at the period was to use the bottle. And she could be very conventional.
*Did you think my father was faithful to you? Or did you have reason to believe he was not?
Then I’d get some names to fill in some genealogy holes. I’d ask her some questions about her theology, something beyond the perfunctory responses she often gave me.
Of course, that window of opportunity is more than five years past.