Mother’s Day 2006

My mother is gone now. Gone since October. I miss her a lot sometimes. Something inside me misses her, although it is hard to describe exactly how I feel this. Fortunately for me, I have a sense of completion about our relationship.That was not always the case. We had a breach in our relationship that happened when I was about ten years of age. It was a result of the stress of my father’s illness on each of us. We withdrew from one another. It was a matter of coping. I felt sorry for her and she felt helpless and at a loss as to how to fix what was going wrong between us.

Even though this was happening and continued over the next thirty years at least, we never directly talked about it. I could not because I did not want to talk about the feelings and I did not want to make her feel more anxious and criticise in any way. I realized always how much she was doing, how fully she filled her difficult shoes, and the fragility of our lives during the months of my father’s illnesses and times between.

Eight years ago she came to live with me and my husband. She called me one day, as had been our agreement, and told me that she thought the time had come. She could no longer really care for herself; her friends were overwhelmed with some of her needs and could no longer be a sufficient social cushion and support. Her mind was “going.” She was having difficulty concentrating and keeping her life straight. She was no longer safe driving herself.

 

So we drove the U-Haul to her Senior Apartment in Ohio, with our two older sons in tow, and helped her move to our home. Her friends and neighbors helped. I arranged a celebration in her honor so that she could say a proper goodby and within days she was the newest member of our family.It was a tough adjustment. My mom was a messy sort of person. I am an orderly home-body: a bit over-concerned about cleanliness if anything. She seldom washed her hands and would leave a virtual trail behind her in her going from task to task. She was a cook, had even been a cook for her living at one time, and we were commonly eater-outers.

She wanted to cook for us. And more than anything else, she wanted to “sit and visit.” Her sitting and visiting was often an experience of hearing the rendition of stories that I had heard many times before in my life: stories about her family whom she loved dearly. She was the epitome of the holder of oral tradition. Detail, after detail. Day in and day out. The more she loved a family member the more she could remember the tiniest of interactions with them. Family life of sixty and seventy years before. She could tell you the weather, who was there, what they said, what they looked like and describe the scene so that you could picture it clearly in your own mind. Her stories, while fascinating, wore me out. As much as I wanted to show respect for her and patience to listen, my tolerance would quickly be reached.

We made a way of life together that worked for her and for my husband and myself. We spent a lot of time at our office. She learned to go on with her life at the house without us and to not focus her life so much on ours. We developed some patterns and rhythms. Going to the store. How to arrange the kitchen cabinets. How to keep the bathrooms in order. How to stay out of each other’s way. Often there was less social time than she would have liked. Other times, we had much fun and spirited sharing together, sometimes involving the extended family and visits with grandchildren and eventually great-grandchildren.

She took absolutely no interest in our church family. “I don’t like that kind of church!” said it quite plainly. Another issue was that she had problems with bladder control and it made her ill at ease socially. She virtually refused to put herself in a position of being embarassed by having an accident with strangers present. At least, I was soon to learn, she would take some of these risks with me and we could have an emergency kit with us at all times so that we could safely make trips to the grocery or other events such as a concert.

She liked going to my son’s church. It was a contemporary service, with gospel groups, music flashed on walls, and a walk in atmosphere so that those who attended could even bring drinks with them to their seats. It was a wonderfully spiritual process, with prayer and liturgy crafted to bring the group together in worship. On one occasion, as she was taking a fast trip to the restroom, her underclothes literally fell down around her ankles. The minister, who loved my mother dearly, and was especially fond of her as the most senior member of the congregation, helped her along and made sure she was able to save face but both ended laughing aloud when my mother made a good joke of it. She had a great sense of humor and laughed easily.


There were seven major surgeries, including open heart, hip replacement and a resection of her colon because of cancer. Extended cancer care. Difficult transitions. But mother was tough and brave and she almost always kept a positive attitude and “can do” approach to recovery. When she was given the final diagnosis of stage three/four cancer she even found a way to face her final trial in life with dignity and compassion for others.

This is when we bonded the most deeply. I was caring for her everyday, seeing to her most intimate needs. We had already talked through our issues and I had come to understand her way of dealing with the stress we had endured. But seeing her decline and maintain her reserve and face the daily demands of cancer progression, I came to finally recognize more fully her gentility, her kindness, her big heart and how it had been broken in our early lives together.


We had never had words, except for a couple of times in my childhood. There was little reason to discipline me, because I was generally spirited but definitely obedient. And she did not need to run a tight, tight ship and respected my personhood. She loved being with us daily and provided an amazingly secure environment for my brother and me even through the worst of life trials.

 

And she loved my father dearly, illness and all.

 

She was a great lady. And I do miss her. But I feel good about how we ended our journey together and while I don’t know exactly the qualities of the spirit life she has entered I do know that she is safely in the hands of her Lord, the One she truly followed and loved as best she could.

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