Tag Archives: losing a child

To be the Mother of a Young Black Man

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photographs some mother's beautiful black son.I know how it is to lose a child. An almost-adult child I loved and had high hopes for, whose life my own life revolved around. She was, and still is, half my world. “Always,” she used to sign her letters. Now, she is “always” in my heart.

I know how it is to worry about a son. To stay up beyond my bedtime, wondering when he’ll come home or if he’ll make it home. There are so many things that can happen to a young man these days. “Mom, seriously? You worry too much,” he says. But maybe he’ll run into a bad situation some late night. And what if my son, the other half of my world, were to get stopped by a policeman? Would he find help? Advice? A warning? A sympathetic ear? Or would he find trouble?

I do not know what it is like to be the mother of a young black man. In a country where every day so many young black lives are wiped out, the mother of a black man must surely pray her son will not find trouble, will not find himself in the presence of police. “Please let him be safe. Please. Let him come home.” Always. Night and day. Fear for the life of your child could strangle the life out of you.

Another day, another killing. Another brokenhearted mother. And just the thought of that mother’s world collapsing around her, the memory of what it was like to see my own daughter’s lifeless face, the knowledge that another mother will never again see the sweet eyes of the child who lit her life – makes my heart tremble and howl.

 

Thanks to fellow student Travis, for his smile, wherever he is these days. My regards to his mother.

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Curating my Life and my Website

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops multiple bordres around her old outdated website graphics.

“This is Me, it’s like a part of me. I can’t just get rid of it. These graphics are my branding,” I told the Ithaca College student who was writing a critical evaluation of my website for his final project. But I knew the distracting purple and black zigzags had to go. It was the Me from four years ago, when I was clinging to my past artwork because I no longer knew who I was or what I was capable of. Thinking I’d never do art again, a year after my daughter died, I’d grabbed graphics from decades earlier to design my site. I’d filled every corner of my online home, as if I could pad and protect my new life.

“Cluttered …crowded … crazy patterns … Unclear what the purpose is,” was written in the student’s report. Many of his classmates had voted in agreement, “The site doesn’t look trustworthy.” A suffocating heaviness enveloped me. Like grief. And I wondered how I had failed, and why my readers wouldn’t trust me. After all, I had emptied my heart onto the blog posts. Each week for four years I’d dug deep into my gut to extract the truth about losing a loved one, and planted it on the pages. What else could I possibly expose in order to be “trustworthy?” I decided to tear down and whitewash the whole site.

Days later, I learned that trustworthiness referred to the credibility of the website, and the safeguards utilized to secure the site from scammers and malicious hackers.
“We’re updating your secure connection, and getting you the certification sticker,” Bob, my webmaster at Ameriweb Hosting, assured me, when I called, in tears. But by then, my mind was made up. It was time to clean up and clear it out.

So please excuse the mess on my website the next few weeks as I peel away the old distracting layers of design, and Bob adds layers of protection. I’m lightening up and simplifying our looks. There’s room to spread out now. More space. It’s secure. Finally, I can breathe again. I can fly.

 

 

 

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Bucket Filling

In Ithaca, New York, Robin Botie wants to fill a bucket for her son on Easter.I wanted to be a mother on Easter again. But my son, in his adult state, does not like sweets. What can you give to someone who has everything? Who buys, faster than light, whatever he needs or wants? I bought him a bucket. And tried to fill it for him.

For my birthday he had taken me to one of our favorite restaurants. After dinner we sat over glasses of Armagnac and I asked him, “What’s next?”
“I don’t know,” he said. And not wanting to bring up the touchy topic of job searches on a peaceful evening, I tweaked my question toward the outer limits:
“Don’t you have a bucket list?”
“I’ve already done everything on my bucket list,” he said. And he named a dozen amazing things he’d experienced in his remarkable young life.
“Well, you can’t be all done. There’s gotta be places you want to see, more things you want to do,” I said, thinking of my own bucket list, which is endless.
“No, I can die at fifty.”
“No. You can’t,” I told him. “Because I wanna live to a hundred and you can’t leave me childless.” Losing a child was not something I wanted to do twice.

Over the next week I tried to make a list for him: see sunrise on a hot-air balloon over the caves of Cappadocia in Turkey; watch the sunset in Santorini, Greece; eat at the Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence; visit an active volcano; howl naked at the moon with wolves; give a homeless person a hundred dollar bill; attend a birth, … but you can’t make a bucket list for someone else, no matter how much you love him.

The day before Easter, I scrunched my way through a crowded Wegmans gathering travel-sized toiletries and smoked salmon, Clementines, a RedBull energy drink, … special breakfast items. Even a man with no plans and no hunger could appreciate a new toothbrush and a nice Easter breakfast.
Behind the bakery counter, a woman smiled as she drew icing-faces on bunny cookies.
“Do you love your work?” I asked.
“Oh yeah, decorating cookies is the perfect job for me,” she said. “I look forward to it every day.” I added a bunny cookie to my son’s breakfast collection.
At the Agway store, I grabbed a five-inch tall metal bucket off the shelf. The possibilities for a small bucket, even empty, are limitless.

There was one more bucket left on the shelf. I took it for myself.

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