By Tam Lin Neville
Featured Art: Irises by Van Gogh
My mother had been failing for several years, slowly, but minimized the signs. We, her five grown children, were not to worry or be diverted from our lives. When it came, the time of her dying seemed to open of its own accord, its span neither too short nor too long. We had several weeks to talk, to tie up loose ends before the illness closed in and became a kind of weather we could no longer work around. On December 14, l997 she died at home in the company of her children and grandchildren. Snow was falling in Keene Valley, the small town in the Adirondack Mountains where she had lived for thirty-five years.
Emily Neville, my mother, was a well-known writer for young adults, and my relationship with her, as the oldest, a daughter, and also a writer, is complicated. Sometimes it seems like a difficult poem I have memorized but don’t yet understand. During her lifetime I was wary of such a strong, capable figure so close to me. My Aunt Mary, the sibling closest to my mother in age, once remarked, “As a child there was no point in doing anything—Emily could always do it better.” But she was a gentle person with no heavy-handed ways an oldest child could legitimately dispute, though I did resist her increasingly as I entered my teens. Since she was almost universally liked and respected my opposition put me at odds, not only with my mother, but with everyone I knew.