When the comedian Louie Anderson died last January, I felt bereft. I had come to Louie fandom later in my life, through his portrayal of Christine Baskets, based on his own mother Ora, on the dark FX comedy series,
Christine was the first mother on television that reminded me of my mom, Lynn. In the series, Christine genuinely tries to support her dreamy, self-defeating son Chip (Zach Galifianakis)-even when she doesn’t understand him.
There were obvious ways that Christine reminded me of Lynn-she adorned herself in bright colors and bold costume jewelry as my mom did. Christine was a Costco enthusiast and devotee; my mom could enter a TJ Maxx and emerge like she’d been boutique shopping in Manhattan or Milan.
Even deeper, though, was Christine’s ability to encourage Chip on his strange artistic path. Lynn was a cheerleader for my own creative efforts, from the Dada-esque poetry I wrote for the high school school litmag to my self-scripted prose-poem about menstruation that I performed in college while dancing with a live bald python.
Until I found my way, I was the struggling Chip to her grounded Christine. When Mrs. Baskets said, “I just want Chip to be happy,” I heard Mom’s voice, loud and clear.
I watched the series back when Mom was alive, when she sent me texts with dozens of emojis throughout the day. Now, nineteen months after her death, I want to return and thank her for what her unconditional love meant to me.
The world moved on from Louie Anderson’s death. I let go of my hope for a reunion that might give me another glimpse of Mom again.
The ancient Jewish structure for mourning helped me to grieve through the first year when feelings of loss felt huge and at times, unstoppable. Time is marked for the griever with rituals of remembering in increments-the first week, the first thirty days, the first year. My mom died unexpectedly from complications of an emergency surgery in September 2020, so her pandemic funeral was with family only, outdoors at the gravesite, no meal together after. I delivered her eulogy masked and sobbing. There was loss within the loss when I couldn’t hug my siblings, father or nephews. Shiva on zoom, with family members and friends gathering…