Tag Archives: Mothers Day

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Neither Gone Nor Forgotten.

Mom at 22.

My mother died in the early morning hours of May 6, 2017 after a long, hard-fought battle will illness, injury, and a life that, beginning in reduced circumstances, was filled with hardship and pain. She never had it easy. Never got a break. Not even for one day.

Today’s post is one I posted some time ago and feel is particularly fitting now.

She was weak before the accident and more severely weakened after it. The orthopedic surgeon said her arm was shattered and because she was high risk for surgery, he chose Option #2 – putting her under for the 10 minutes it would take to reshape her arm and hold it in place while they cast it. It would not afford her the mobility she would otherwise have had, but she would have some use of it even if it didn’t work quite as it once did.

There was a time when her hands did what she wanted them to do. When we were kids, Mom didn’t have a lot of free time, but on Sundays she played games with us. Our favorites were Sorry, which we played over and over again, and Monopoly, one game sometimes taking an entire afternoon, and a card game called War – so fast-paced we played it even more times than Sorry. Sometimes Mom made popcorn on the stove, put it in a big bowl, and we’d eat it as we sat around the game board on the floor in our tiny living room. When she was able to set aside a few extra dollars, she would walk us downtown to the Park or Lake theaters to see a movie and by us milkshakes at Isaly’s across the street. Sometimes we’d go to Edgewood Park to play and swim.

She was always busy: cooking, cleaning, making our clothes, washing and ironing, keeping the shack we lived in as clean as possible. She made curtains to cover the scarred window panes so it looked more like a real home.

When my sister came home from school with lice in her hair, Sunday game time was put on hold, and Mom spent the entire afternoon and evening going through my sister’s long, thick, black hair, one strand at a time, picking out the nits. It was a painstaking process, but her fingers were deft then. They could do anything.

But those same fingers that once pushed our clothes through a hand-wringer washing machine, now struggled to push the buttons through the buttonholes on her blouse.

Her hands ironed my father’s work shirts for his shift at B&W, and later, after he left us with nothing, they ironed a bushel basket full of white dress shirts each week for the men of other wives with easier lives. Each bushel basket contained 20 damp shirts rolled up like newspapers. Twenty white dress shirts had to be starched and wrinkle-free. A pristine job earned her $5 for the basketful. If the owner was dissatisfied with even one shirt, no remuneration was forthcoming for Mom’s efforts.

Those same hands that made most of our clothes using material selected from the pile of remnants on the bargain basement table at Marshall’s in Barberton, now have difficulty pushing a button on the tv’s remote control because the arthritis in them is so painful.

Mom’s hands have wallpapered, cooked, sewn, crocheted, and knitted for far more years than they haven’t. There is a picture of a flower-patterned, intricately crocheted tablecloth on top of a drop-leaf table in front of which my sister and I are sitting when we were about 4 and 6 years old. Mom had placed a small Christmas tree on top of it, and Christmas icicles were dangling from its branches creating a prism of sparkles behind our heads as the photo is taken. Mom made that decorative piece the year before I was born. Now it graces my own dining-room table.

Those hands that took care of us and once did so many things with such ease falter now trying to push the nurse call button. They can no long push her up from her chair or pull a blanket over her in bed. She’s a little better after all the physical therapy, but not enough.

She tries to lift her left arm so she can use her fingers to utilize the utensils she needs to cut and pick up her food, but it proves difficult. She tries again and it’s hard to watch her struggle and not jump in to help, but we are told not to. It is something she must do herself. The fiberglass cast stretching from her shoulder to just below the first knuckles of her fingers is too heavy to lift with her good arm, which isn’t strong either. The fingers on her good hand shake as she attempts to grab those on her other hand, semi-contained by her cast. I want to cry.

Her entire life has always been a struggle.

For a long while Mom worked hard to get strong enough to go home, and she finally made it. But she threw some clots a few months later and suffered several TIAs. She spends her final five months in Hospice.

I feed her dinner. She cries because her hands and feet ache so badly; most of the time she can’t hold a spoon in her hand. All she wants to do is go home, unable to accept the fact that she isn’t going to make it back.

She doesn’t always recall who I am and sometimes refers to me as “the nice lady who comes to see me every day.” One day she says she hasn’t seen that lady in awhile and wonders where she is, what’s happened to her. She cries because she likes her so much and says “that lady was so nice to me.” She couldn’t make the connection between me and “that lady” and it made me so sad. For her and for me.

But during those five months together, we carved out a mother-daughter relationship I will treasure the rest of my life. I love my mother and have a deeper understanding of her and all she’d been through. I know she had to die; we all do. But I didn’t want her to die alone and spent the last week of her life sleeping beside her – she in her bed, I in the recliner pushed up against it.

I will miss our talks, Mom. Our playful banter, even the tears we shared. I know you’ll miss my dancing (a private joke between us). I hope I brought you a measure of happiness and helped you make the peaceful transition to a better life with Grandma and Aunt Toni who have been waiting for you for so long. And I hope you know, now, how much I have always loved you.

Now I know, for certain, that she loved me, too.

She had to do the dying herself, but I wasn’t going to let her be by herself when she did it. I was there. I kissed her, telling her it was okay to let go. She would be all right, and we would all be okay. She chose to leave this earthy plane later that night as I slept by her side.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. You will always be in my heart.

Your loving daughter, Linda.

“If you can remember me, I will be with you always.” – Isabel Allende

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Something She Must Do Herself

Mom at 22.

Mom at 22.

She was weak before the accident and more severely weakened after it. The orthopedic surgeon said her arm was shattered and because she was an extremely high risk for surgery, he’d settled for Option #2 – putting her under for the 10 minutes it would take to reshape her arm and hold it in place while they cast it. It would not afford her the mobility she would otherwise have had, but she would have some use of it even if it didn’t work quite as it once did.

There was a time when her hands did what she wanted them to do. When we were kids, Mom didn’t have a lot of free time, but on Sundays she played games with us. Our favorites were Sorry and Monopoly, one game sometimes taking an entire afternoon to play, and a card game called War – so fast-paced we played it over and over again. Sometimes Mom made popcorn on the stove, put it in a big bowl, and we’d eat it as we sat around the game board on the floor in the living room. When she was able to set aside a few extra dollars, she took us to a movie and bought us milkshakes at Isaly’s or took us to the park to play and swim.

She was always busy cooking, cleaning, making our clothes, washing and ironing, keeping the shack we lived in as clean as possible, and making curtains for the scarred windows to make it look more like a real home.

When my sister came home from school with lice in her hair, Sunday game time was put on hold, and Mom spent the entire afternoon and evening going through my sister’s long, thick, black hair, one hair at a time, picking out the nits. It was a painstaking process, but her fingers were deft then. They could do anything.

But those same fingers that once pushed our clothes through a hand-wringer washing machine, now struggled to push the buttons through the buttonholes on her blouse.

Her hands ironed my father’s work shirts for his shift at B&W, and later, after he left us with nothing, they ironed a bushel basket full of white dress shirts each week for the men of other wives with easier lives. Each bushel basket contained 20 damp shirts rolled up like newspapers. Twenty white dress shirts to be starched and wrinkle-free. A pristine job earned her $5 for the basketful. If the owner was dissatisfied with even one shirt – Mom got nothing for her efforts.

Those same hands that made most of our clothes using material selected from the pile of remnants on the bargain basement table at Marshall’s in Barberton, now have difficulty pushing a button on the tv’s remote control because the arthritis in them is so bad.

Mom’s hands have wallpapered, cooked, sewn, crocheted, and knitted for far more years than they haven’t. There is a picture of a flower-patterned, intricately crocheted tablecloth on top of a lamp table in front of which my sister and I are sitting when we were about 4 and 6 years old. Mom had placed a small Christmas tree on top of it, and Christmas icicles were dangling from it behind our heads as the photo was taken. Mom made that decorative piece the year before I was born – it now graces my own dining room table.

Those hands that took care of us and did so many things with such ease falter now trying to push the nurse call button. They experience difficulty pushing her up from her chair or pulling a blanket over her in bed. She’s a little better after all the physical therapy, but not enough.

She tries to lift her left arm so she can use her fingers to utilize the utensils she needs to cut and pick up her food, but it proves difficult. She tries again and it’s hard to watch her struggle and not jump in to help, but we are told not to. It is something she must do herself. The fiberglass cast stretching from her shoulder to just below the first knuckles of her fingers is too heavy to lift with her good arm which isn’t strong either. Her fingers shake as she attempts to grab those fingers on her other hand which are semi-contained by her cast. I want to cry. Her entire life has always been a struggle.

She works hard to get strong enough to go home. All she wants to do is go home, but she will not have to do everything herself this time. We will extend our hands, returning the gift she gave us. We will take care of her now.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

 

 

 

A Mother’s Promise

“We need parents, when we are older, to learn things from…to help us become clearer to ourselves.”  –Anil’s Ghost, Michael Ondaatjie

The powerful love that sweeps over you when your child is born is an amazing thing. Even years afterward, you can be overwhelmed with emotion at the oddest times. A slight inflection in their voice, a look in their eye, a unique point of view they casually toss out for discussion, the arrival of unexpected flowers, a card for no special occasion with a hand-written expression of their feelings for you, a laugh shared, or an unanticipated moment together can reduce a mother to tears of exquisite joy.

I just want to protect you, you tell them, and they say they don’t need protecting anymore. But you made a promise when they were born. You held them in your arms and promised to be there for them, always – no matter what. You promise yourself, and them, that you will do your best. You will hold their hand, assuring their safe passage to the other side of the street, that you will always be by their side.

But we’re inadequately prepared for motherhood. We learn by doing, giving the dice our best shake and tossing them into the world beyond our front doors. We don’t all come up with the same numbers, but we try to do the best we can.

If one thing doesn’t work, we try something else, but mothers are human, like everyone else, and sometimes we make mistakes.

Sometimes good things happen, but sometimes things go wrong. There is nothing worse than something bad happening to your child. Nothing. Your first inclination is to help, to save them from their mistakes. It doesn’t matter if they are five years old or fifty, the inclination remains the same. A mother’s pain doesn’t recognize the difference in age as more or less deserving of her attention.

When a child is born and the mother holds her baby in her arms for the first time, she promises to be there – no matter what – to laugh and to cry with her, to share in his happiness, to stand by her side. A mother doesn’t run when something bad happens. She turns neither her face nor her heart away. A mother squares her shoulders and offers them to her child for solace, for strength.

A mother says, “I’ll be there in your happiest moments and in your worst. I’ll hold your hand, I’ll do what I can to help. I will remain at your side, offer advice, or sit quietly nearby when you want to talk or to just cry. I will love you no matter what you say or do.”

No matter what. That’s a mother’s promise.

Photo on 2013-05-12 at 10.44

Looking back, I see my own mother battered by life from the day she was born. Harshly treated by her father, betrayed by the first man she loved, and physically beaten and publicly humiliated by the one she tried her hardest to please.

As a child, I was vulnerable to her shifting moods. What I didn’t realize then was that she was just as vulnerable to mine – often more so. Her life has always been a struggle for survival built on the shifting sand of others’ caprice.

Some of us idolize our mothers, refusing to acknowledge the faults we know they have. We are all human, we all have faults. But we can still have love. Others hate their mothers for not being like other mothers, showcase moms. They blame them for failings so similar to their own. We make assumptions, knowing so little about their inner lives or the hopes and dreams they had before we came along. We don’t know the secrets, the backstory, that fashioned who they are.

“Youth and death shed a halo through which it is difficult to see a real face.” – Virginia Woolf

To love a mother fully, you need to see her real face. Take a good look at her and accept all that she is. For she is not some ideal of perfection placed on a pedestal to be admired and worshipped from afar on one day of the year. She is a woman, at times fragile, at times strong. A woman like any other who sometimes chooses wrongly, says things she regrets in the heat of anger, frustration, or pain of her own, a woman and mother who shows she loves you in so many little ways every day.

Mothers cry themselves to sleep at night when their children are in emotional pain, and they love without judging, they love unconditionally.

My maternal grandmother showed me by example what it meant to be strong and taught me to stand tall, to face adversity head on. She told me I could do or be whatever I wanted. And though she had been cruelly denied those options herself, she never allowed the severe abuse she suffered at the hands of her own parents, for the crime of being born, to stand in her way.

My own mother I have not always understood. My mother who deserved a better daughter than the one I gave her in those moments when she needed me most.  She loved me anyway, unequivocally. My mother, injured by the harshness of her early years in the care of abusive grandparents, worked hard, clawing her way through life to overcome the disadvantaged beginning that scarred it.

Through it all she managed to keep my sisters and me with her instead of shipping us out to foster homes as others told her to do, taking what meager jobs she could find to make sure we had food to eat. My mother, beaten down by a life far from beautiful, happy, or easy, was strong when she had to be in the ways that counted, though I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t see that as clearly then as I do now.

We haven’t always gotten along as we should have. Haven’t always enjoyed each other’s company. We didn’t walk in the park for no reason. Didn’t go window-shopping. Didn’t write much to each other. Didn’t talk things out. We didn’t say I wish, I want. Didn’t say Help me, I’m sorry, Forgive me. Not until much later in life.

And though I felt cheated for far too many years, she was the one who was.

She couldn’t give me what she didn’t have and hadn’t been given – but she was what she had to be and did what she had to do when it counted the most. When it was needed for the sake of her three little girls.

She wanted us to have a better life than she had. She wanted to protect us and held our hands as we crossed the street. She was there, every day of our lives, just as she promised she would be when we were born.

This is for the mother I didn’t know I always had: Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you more than ever.

Call your mom today – tell her you love her. Tell her again. Give her the gift of yourself and time spent in her company. It’s the only gift she wants – the only one that matters.