Ina Anders Raboff

Letter to Mom

From my ongoing project, “Letters I Never Wrote nor Received”.

Dear Mom,
Today is your birthday and even if you passed away nearly 45 years ago, on the 26th of April, I still spend some time thinking about you. I’m not a huge believer in the whole heaven and earth spiel, but wherever you are, I hope you’ve found peace. And if you are at some kind of cosmic refuge and able to think about me from time to time, I thought I’d write to let you know that I’m doing ok.

In just a few months I’ll be 60. Who would have thought I’d reach that auspicious milestone, right? Tyko only made it to 36, but somehow I keep on truckin’ down life’s bumpy, twisty road.

Mom, in a way, your sudden death back in 1978 was a blessing in disguise. I don’t mean that frivolously or that I’m glad you died (well, not gleefully, anyway). What I mean is how the turn of events that followed upon your passing did lead me to a new and much-improved life. Most of which I’ve spent in your homeland Sweden. I’ve had a good life here and it’s a zillion times better than the substantially shittier one you put Tyko and me through before you croaked.

Your beautiful granddaughter Elle is doing really well. She’s going to be 23 in the fall and is studying at our local university, working part-time, and being amazingly creative. A kind soul. Too bad you never got to meet her.

In August, my wife and your daughter-in-law Charlotte and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. With Dad being married and divorced five times and you twice, I’ve clearly got this whole marriage thing down like you guys never did. Charlotte’s not just a wonderful woman, she’s also been a tireless supporter of me, a great friend, and a terrific mother to Elle.

The creative gene I got from you and Dad has turned out to be the only inheritance I’m thankful for. And now, after a long, and successful career as a writer, photographer, and filmmaker, I’ve returned to my roots as a painter and visual artist.

You know what? A couple of years ago, I spent some time in therapy figuring out stuff that I’ve apparently been suppressing for an unhealthy amount of time. My shrink and I spoke a lot about how you totally fucked up my childhood and how that mess is still lingering and impacting my life so many decades later. Yeah, it was cathartic to open that can of worms and yeah, I’m dealing with it. But I still can’t completely let you off the hook. No way, José.

A couple of summers ago, I visited the rural farm Moderud in Dalsland where you were born and raised. The new owners have renovated the place nicely and kept the same style and color scheme as when you lived there.

While I was looking at the farm with its small barn, main house, and tiny pond out in front, I realized something pretty profound. I realized that as a child, there must be some moments back in the 1930s and 1940s when you were a young, happy girl with a heart filled with innocent joy. Far from the angry, troubled lush I remember you as.

Being at your childhood home got me thinking about how courageous you must have been to leave that life and roll the dice in first London, New York and then L.A. Society is mostly focused on folks that succeed and doesn’t give any kudos for effort. Though I’m clearly still bitter from you destroying most of my childhood and contributing to Tyko’s pain and suffering, I have to give you a pinch of credit for taking on what must have been a monumental challenge for a young woman coming from the Swedish hinterland.

Anyway, I’ve spent more time writing this than you deserve. But since I fired my shrink (she started suggesting that we delve into some crazy-ass, hocus-pocus therapy crap), I’ll chalk up the time it took to write this letter to my annual mother-son, self-help therapy session.