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Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Giraffe Journal

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rather than under a
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I've not had much time for posting or blog visits, but if you're interested I hope you'll find time to check out my new blog, Giraffe Journal or my Labyrinth Journal website ... both self hosted at WordPress.

Thanks for your visit and have a delightful day ;--)
Hugs and blessings,

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

HoTs #5 & Slice of Life #2 - Memories of Mom

I wrote of my mom on January 7th at Sacred Ruminations. I've quoted myself here by way of 'introduction' ... and to get me started writing about my mom somehow.

"I've been thinking of my mom today as I've done several loads of laundry and a few other chores around the house. Having neglected these tasks in favor of blogging lately, I'm feeling a wee bit guilty though I often choose to release worry and guilt these days (after cultivating this new habit over time) so I'm not likely to lose any sleep over it. I've enjoyed learning to do new things, meeting new people through their blogs, experimenting with sharing previous writings from my journals, discovering comments, and responding from the heart. Some days I spend more time at the computer than I'd care to admit. My life is so much easier than hers. She never worked outside the home because my Dad didn't want her too, and she did have three kids to raise once I appeared on the scene.

Mom always did laundry on Mondays, and we kids would help her hang the clothes on the outdoor lines to dry. Rainy Mondays always threw her off because she had specific days to do different tasks. Tuesday was for ironing, but I don't recall which specific tasks she assigned to other days. She cleaned, baked, mended, sewed our clothes, darned socks, cooked meals, and volunteered at our schools & at church. We'd sit on the back porch together to shell peas, but Mom didn't let either my sister nor I help with cooking. We did take turns drying the dishes after dinner as she washed them carefully ... never trusting us with that task either. Occasionally she visited over the fence with neighbors, but for the most part was busy all the time taking care of the family.

My mother loved to play the old upright piano in our living room, and we often gathered around to listen and/or sing along. Later in life after all 3 of us kids were married and my had Dad died, she purchased a new piano and and large organ with multiple keyboards, stops, and foot pedals ... setting them up like Liberace and Corla Panda at right angles to one another so she could play each simply by turning on the stool. She watched them faithfully on television when we were kids, and took lessons as a senior citizen ... acquiring new skills with regular practice.

Possibly the time I'm spending at my computer is similar to the time Mom devoted to mastering musical skill, once she had the time to pursue that interest for pleasure. I suspect she'd wholeheartedly approve of me sharing my writing on these two blogs as she shared her music joyfully."
* * * * *
Now ... 4 months later ...
I'm even more certain Mom would approve.
My mom died of an aneurysm when I was 44 and she ... just 78. Writing about her challenges me whenever I make the effort. I struggled with the preceding piece back in January, and mention her only 2 or 3 times in my 101 Things about Me. It's 6:20am and I've spent 12 minutes staring at the blinking cursor ... trying to decide where to begin and what to share. I guess I'll see just how long it takes me to write and publish something ;--)
~~~~~~~~~~

I 'happened' as a total surprise. My dad had assured her that he was 'sterile' due to hospital treatments ... and she must have believed him. I overheard her (later in life) retell the story of the day she realized she was pregnant with me ... how she cried as she shared with a friend while hanging laundry, lamenting 'she didn't know what she'd do or how they'd manage' ... so I suspect if it hadn't been 1945 (when abortions weren't easily available nor talked about) I might never have 'arrived' at all. That said ...
part of me fully understands.

Mom already struggled against great odds ... with two 'sickly' kids she almost lost to 'medical complications' as babies and a husband who had just been released from the hospital ... had no job (or prospects for finding one) ... and who was adamant that SHE not seek work outside the home. Nothing came easily for mom, but somehow she held on ... steeling herself as she humbly accepted 'charity' from extended family and church to keep us fed and clothed even as she would have preferred to get a job herself ... and most likely would have been able to use her considerable secretarial skills effectively to succeed!

She was a product of a strict 'Dutch' upbringing in Michigan ... youngest of 5 children born to immigrants from Holland who spoke no English themselves who wouldn't let their kids speak anything but English because they wanted their children to be 'Americans' and felt 'language' essential for success. Her father ran a grocery store across the street from Leonard's Refrigerator ... and when my sister & I visited decades later the 'store' was still there with a huge Kelvinator plant across the street.

Her family moved to California when she was 12 or 13 and she met my father at church when she was in her early 20s. He was 10 years older than her ... born & bred in Kansas. They couldn't have been different from one another, but they shared deep love from the start ... and when he died of cancer in February of 1976 ... she was devastated.

My fondest memories of mom return to times she played with me when I was young ... turning rope ... teaching me 'double Dutch' and 'jacks' ...(she was unbeatable always). She learned to drive a car when I turned 14 ... about the same time my brother was teaching ME to drive his Plymouth 'stick shift' ... w/o my parent's knowledge. (I can't believe I forgot to mention this in yesterday's post about him, but I'll need to share that story another time).

We had some 'difficult years' in my late 20s & early 30s ... I suspect because she was disappointed I gave her no grandchildren to 'dote' upon and because she didn't understand 'me' as 'separate (or different) from her' for a while ... but those 'rifts' passed and we became close in my mid 30s. I'm grateful for that decade or so of 'authentic connection' ... when each of us could 'speak our mind' ... agreeing to disagree on some issues ... valuing the relationship above all.

Our last breakfast together was at 'The Belgian Waffle Inn' during Spring Break of 1989 in March. We had a wonderful visit that morning and laughed often while sharing memories. My sister & her husband had taken their kids 'camping' for the week so I drove mom to the hospital for the 'routine test' to determine whether the 'aging replacement valves' in her heart (from heart surgery a decade earlier) could be replaced. She put her engagement and wedding rings on my right hand and asked me to wear them until she was finished with the test.

As I sat in the waiting room on that Monday afternoon by myself I heard the code ... knew it was her w/o being told ... listened to the doctor explain that her aorta had ruptured during the test but they were doing everything they could to save her ... moved to the waiting room of the ICU ... called my sister-in-law to let my brother know as I wondered how to reach my sister & her husband. My 'ex' figured that one out ... changing the message on our answering machine at home to provide the number of the pay phone at the hospital.

The doctor told us later that she coded multiple times but they revived her successfully ... and we faced the decision of what instructions to give them. All three of us knew 'quality of life' was the reason mom entered the hospital for the test ... so we signed the DNR and waited as she 'rallied' ... getting our hopes up for recovery after all. They rescheduled her for the surgery on Friday morning.

My sister & I arrived at the ICU around 8am ... heard 'the code' shortly after and once again I knew it was mom ... told Barb (who wasn't convinced) ... and we waited for the doctor to join us. When he did he apologized ... explaining that mom 'coded' at the 'change of shift' and no one consulted the instructions before reviving her yet again ... so she was alive but surgery was no longer an option.

We called our brother ... he arrived around 1:00 in the afternoon so we all had the chance to say 'good-bye' and were with her as they removed the respirator. She died about 3pm on Good Friday ... with an amazing expression of joy, delight, and peace on her face. As I sat with my siblings afterwards ... we decided we needed a plan to remain connected now that we wouldn't gather with mom for special occasions.

Then & there we committed to 'sibling night' ... the 1st Friday of each month we'd meet for dinner in San Juan Capistrano ... midway between where my sister & I each lived and my brother's home in Oceanside. We followed through until my brother grew to ill to make the monthly trip. That's when my sister & I designated Thursdays as 'sister night' and started to meet weekly around 4:30-ish.
Mom's buried in Mesa, Arizona next to Dad ...
just where she wanted to be.
* * * * *
Thought for Today
"Some mothers are kissing mothers and some are scolding mothers, but it is love just the same, and most mothers kiss and scold together." Pearl S. Buck

42 comments:

ChrisB said...

I was born in 1944 and my mothers weekly routine through the early 50's sounds very similar to your mother's, one of my jobs was to help mangle the clothes! This is a sad but wonderful story and I love the thought for today!

Sue said...

What a beautifully moving tribute to your Mom. Thank you for introducing us to her through these memories :)

I like the way you equated blogging to her music, and I think you are right :)

Natalie said...

That was very touching!

Jean at Penny Lane said...

That is a very nice tribute!

I just realized that although your Mom played the piano and you equate that to your time blogging, they both have "keys" in common!

Thanks for stopping by Penny Lane.

Inspiration Alley said...

Your post reminded me of how life was when I was younger, the set tasks on set days. A very moving tribute toi your mother. I always find it difficult to write about things that I care deeply about as well.

Simply Shannon said...

A very beautiful tribute to your mom...very touching. Thank you for sharing this awesome post today..was a great read for me!

Tina said...

I have read a few heads and tails ones now with peope doing tributes to their moms. I think that is so nice. Such a lovely thing to do.

Thanks for your touching story

Raven said...

A lovely tribute to your mother. I love the Pearl S. Buck quote at the end, too.

Vixen said...

That was such a moving tribute to your mom. I think it is wonderful that you and your siblings decided right then and there to create sibling night. How beautiful. I will have to store that nugget away for future reference.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Akelamalu said...

What a beautiful tribute to your Mum. I love it that losing your Mum brought you all so close and you have continued to meet up regularly, I'm sure your Mum is smiling every time you all meet up.

maggies mind said...

Beautiful post about your mom and about who you are partly because of who she was.

Sassy Mama Bear said...

What a beautiful tribute to your mother.

Alice - I Was Born2Cree8 said...

This is such a beautiful and moving story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Now I must go read about your brother. In my family there are 5 'kids', some are close and some of us not. I think that once Mom goes I will rarely if ever hear from my siblings... and I guess that's okay. We live our own lives. Sad I guess, but the way it is.

Have a wonderful week.

Misty Dawn said...

Very well written and moving tribute.

Hootin' Anni said...

That's sad, happy, heartfelt, loving, and filled with a great deal of devotion whether you consider it or not. By your words, you two had a relationship so unique it is heartwarming! Personally, I think your mother feared the lack of support [monetarily] rather than not wanting you. But, that's my opinion from what I read from your post.

It was beautiful.

Glad you were able to stop by today, I've been extremely busy so I'm running late with my visits. I hope I can catch up....

Reba @ Reba's Run said...

Whoof!! So many emotions are brought up woof this story. Thanks fur visiting my dog blog. Bark!

storyteller said...

I just returned from visiting with a friend recovering from surgery … ran errands on the way home and have put my groceries away. How lovely to find you’ve all visited my today. Thank you so much!

ChrisB – ‘Revisiting’ my memories of mom in this manner and sharing here felt challenging, but it’s reassuring to discover I’ve ‘struck resonant chords’ with your memories of that time. I thought the quote a ‘perfect’ closing.

Sue – I appreciate your ‘supportive’ feedback and I hope we’re both right.

Natalie – Thank you ;--)

Jean – Ah … a ‘connection’ I didn’t make until I read your comment. You’re right!

Inspiration Alley – I think I’m glad to have pushed through the ‘resistance’ I felt this morning and stayed with the topic even when I felt like abandoning it altogether.

Shannon – I’m delighted you found it worth your time today.

Tina – As Mother’s Day approaches (especially with my sister on the other side of the US) … feelings arise within and it’s wonderful to be able to share … finally.

Raven – I hope she’d find it so (or perhaps does?). As I said previously, the quote seemed to capture the essence of the way I was ‘parented’ … with clear limits set by love.

Vixen – ‘Family’ and relationships remain ‘central’ for me today. Getting together monthly led to us taking vacations together … several times at Lake Powell on houseboats. I’ve wonderful memories to sustain me ;--)

Akelamalu – I suspect you’re right ;--)

Maggie – Overall, my sister is more like mom than I am … perhaps because she adopted and raised two children and understands the ‘mother role’ better than I. I do catch myself periodically saying or doing something mom would have said or done … and smile. I’m much more like my dad however.

SassyMamaBear – I’m pleased it comes across that way … since I intended to be as ‘authentic’ as possible as I created the post … and I do have fond memories of mom.

Alice – Shortly after my mom died … my husband of 21 years (best friend of 33 years) decided he no longer wanted to be married and left. A few years later I invited a friend with 3 teenaged daughters to live with me so she could return to school. That friend always ‘marveled’ that the members of my family ‘genuinely liked as well as loved one another’ … and seeing MY family through HER eyes helped me to see (for the first time) that not all families ‘got along’ with one another. Perhaps it’s not too late to build some connections with your siblings?

Misty – Thanks. I gave it my best shot this morning ;--)

Hootin’ Anni – I have no doubt my mother loved me … and perhaps even regretted her early reactions to my ‘beginnings’ … (smile). She believed I ‘healed’ my dad …(who gave me primary care as an infant)… and he & I always had a unique relationship. I’ve written of him elsewhere … though at the moment I don’t recall just where or when. As for running late … methinks I’ll be ‘catching up’ for DAYS ;--]

Reba – Visiting Reba’s run is always a pleasure. Molly wishes you lived close enough for a play date!

I did a bit of blog visiting before I left this morning, but didn’t get around to as many folks as I usually do … so I’ll be catching up over the next few days. I appreciate all your comments and hope you’ve each had a lovely day.
Hugs and blessings,

Sandy C. said...

What a beautiful tribute to your mother. Your story and memories of her are so touching. I shed some tears reading about her hospital stay. I can't imagine having to hear her code in another room and sign a DNR. You are such a strong woman and a beautiful writer. Thank you for sharing.

peppylady said...

What beautiful and well put together memories of your mom.
She sound like a very kind and loving mom.d

Skittles said...

Oh my gosh.. what an amazing post. Thank you for sharing with us..

Eve said...

In many your mother and mine were much alike. Perhaps it was the time they lived in.

storyteller said...

Sandy – Thank you for your caring feedback. Writing about my mom brings up conflicting feelings for me. Losing her when and how we did left little time for ‘good-byes’ … and I miss her even now, especially at this time of year. As for strength … methinks we do what we have to in life … dealing with whatever comes up as best we can.

Peppylady and Skittles
I appreciate your responses. I’m touched by your kind words and grateful I allowed myself write authentically without thinking of ‘readers’ … trying to capture the essence of our complex relationship as best I could.

Eve – Yes … and I suspect that’s true for all of us! Aren’t we each ‘shaped’ by the times in which we’re born, grow up, and live? As ‘conditions’ change … so must we. Even so, those ‘formative years & experiences’ remain central to our core being.

Responding to this week’s topic offered the opportunity to reflect on my relationship with my mom and I’m happy I took advantage of it yesterday. Thanks to each of you for visiting and sharing your reactions. I feel blessed and valued this morning. May you each enjoy a wonderful Wednesday!
Hugs and blessings,

Sherck said...

What a wonderful post, just beautiful. Thank you for sharing your mother--and your talent for storytelling--with us.

Phyl said...

What a wonderfully moving tribute to your Mother. And the quote at the end is perfect.

Funny how we are about our Moms...huh? My own mom thought I gave her too many grandchildren, but we eventually grew to agree to disagree also:). She passed from this planet in 1998.

Many hugs and thank you for touching my heart...

storyteller said...

Sherck – What a lovely comment to find this morning! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond in such a supportive and encouraging manner.

Phyl – Moms and daughters can develop quite complex relationships. Sorting it all out is often difficult. I’m happy my reflection touched your heart and appreciate you letting me know. As for the quote … it seemed ‘perfect’ to me when I happened upon it.

I still have some ‘ambivalence’ about telling my family ‘stories’ … but I'm doing my best to follow Karen’s advice and push through the resistance I feel. With feedback like this, I feel emboldened. Thanks!
Hugs and blessings,

lisa marie said...

Your mom sounds like quite a woman! Perfect time for a wonderful tribute. XO

Joyce said...

That was a precious remembrance.

storyteller said...

Lisa Marie and Joyce – Thanks ;--)
I wish you both a ‘happy Mother’s Day’ this year! Thanks for visiting and I hope you each have a fantastic Friday!
Hugs and blessings,

Sherck said...

Hear hear, push through that resistance! The family is probably the most basic human relationship, but while there are certainly patterns to the experience, the amazing variety is intensely interesting, perhaps because we tend to take it for granted, we tend to assume similarities.

Anyway, I'm fascinated by family stories.

storyteller said...

Sherck – Yez … perhaps pushing through resistance requires some ‘encouragement and support’ … so comments like yours are helpful. Thanks for the return visit on this piece about my memories of mom. You’re probably correct about the ‘assumptions’ we make about ‘similarities’ in our ‘patterns of experience’ and the actual ‘variety’ that exists. In any case, I’m delighted to know you’re ‘fascinated’ with family stories … and it seems others are too ;--)
Hugs and blessings,

Karen said...

I'm sitting here crying--completely touched by your writing, and vowing to appreciate my mother while I still have her. (So what if she orders bacon and eggs at a fancy new restaurant?!)

Beautiful writing, Storyteller.

storyteller said...

Karen – Ah … and I’m ‘touched’ by your response here (and comments others have left here as well). I’m trying to ‘let go of’ the ‘mini-lecture’ I just delivered in a response to a question you posed in a previous comment on another post this week. Finding Claudia’s link to Sir Ken Robinson’s talk unleashed a flood of memories (of my teaching past) and strong opinions I thought I’d moved beyond in retirement. Who knew such energy dwells within … just waiting for an opportunity to burst forth? Certainly not me!

Appreciating your mom ‘just as she is’ may help you do the same for yourself … and that might allow you to relax and release stress w/o getting sick … (I speak from personal experience here). Life is short … now is what we have … and that reminds me of something I thought (but failed to include) in my mini-lecture comment. The point of power is always in the present moment! It’s wise and helpful to hold that thought in mind.

Thanks for all your encouragement and support of my writing.
Hugs and blessings,

Cricket's Hearth said...

This was a touching tribute to your mother and I am so happy you shared it with others. I find it interesting that you both share a passion that requires use of your hands and your minds. I so enjoy reading your stories. I gained such peace reading about your mom. My relationship with my mother was turbulent at best. I hope to write about her one day soon but I need to be in the right frame of mind. Your story today has helped me tremendously.

storyteller said...

Cricket – Just as I started to write a response this morning, my friend Carol called asking if I was ‘on the way’ to ‘Retired Gals’ lunch … so I rushed out of here around 11:45 (15 minutes late) and arrived there around noon … just got home about 10 minutes ago (around 4pm). Lunch sometimes extends into other social interaction ;--)

My relationship with mom had ups and downs … and I fully understand the concept of ‘needing to be in the right frame of mind’ to reflect on such family connections. I’m delighted to know that you ‘gained peace reading about mom’ and that my story ‘helped you’ … so thanks for your responsive feedback. I hope to participate in Slice of Life again … as opportunity arises.
Hugs and blessings,

Selma said...

Your Mum would be proud to read your tribute to her. This must have been difficult for you to write. Good on you for doing it. I was really touched.

storyteller said...

Selma – Thanks so much for visiting and leaving the link back to your blog. I’m assuming you found me through Cricket’s ‘Slice of Life’ because I see you participate in that … and Writer’s Island. I’m hoping to work up my confidence to do BOTH of those on a regular basis eventually. You’re correct. The piece about my mom (and the one about my brother written the day before) were ‘challenging’ to write and share … but I’m glad I did publish them both.
Hugs and blessings,

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

storyteller, what a lovely tribute to your mother -- that brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat.

storyteller said...

MPJ – Thanks for sharing your reaction. Writing about my mom is never easy, but I’m happy to have made a bit of progress here. It’s all about ‘baby steps’ … right? Right! Once again, finding your comment just now led me to revisit this post. For the first time since writing it, I cried as I read it, and the lump in my throat remains as I type this comment and wonder what else about mom might spill onto the page if I let my fingers type …
Hugs and blessings,

Tina Coruth said...

Storyteller,

This is a beautiful and poignant tribute to your mother. Thank you for sharing.

hugs,
Tina

storyteller said...

Tina – Thanks! Writing about my mom is never easy for me … but this post came together for me and I’m glad to have shared it.
Hugs and blessings,

Pamela said...

I remember the things my mom did each day, too. Wash day was Thursday etc.

We also ate foods assigned to each day. I don't think mom did that when the older kids were young -- but by the time I came around I think she had to have a routine or go crazy.

I'm glad your mom didn't suffer very long. It was difficult to watch my mom waste away.

ramblingwoods said...

Thank you for sending me this link in e-mail. You too had a difficult Mother but achieved what I haven't been able to. Yes I forgive and accept and then the next totally cruel thing is done to one of my siblings..I don't play the game anymore and I get really angry at her for it...sigh... Michelle

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