Gratitude * Sunday
Sunday’s heartfelt tradition.
A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful.
A list of gratitudes, our gratefulness feeds one another.
Quoted from Taryn Wilson
Joining the Gratitude Sunday Tradition at Wooly Moss Roots.
Only May and hot
days already fill the hours,
warm winds dry the air.
I don’t know when I miss my mom the most: on Mother’s Day, on her birthday, on her death day, or on my birthday. I never had the funds to treat her to dinner out or brunch, or to buy some fabulous present or entertaining event to share. My efforts were more about sharing time, phone calls, afternoon or overnight visits, a drive to view the places we’d lived before she bought the house she raised us children in.
I was in the habit on my birthday of sending her a birth announcement card, announcing the birth of her first baby girl. I had fun creating the cards each year. She always had a giggle or a cry when she opened them. I thought since she had done all the work that day, and the 9 months before creating me, to get me into this world, she deserved some recognition on my birthday. All I did was cause her pain while I squiggled out of her. Maybe it was my first day on this earth, but I wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for her.
She went on to have three more children before my 5th birthday. I can only imagine how hard those first years were, and I know how busy she was the rest of my growing years helping us become responsible citizens. She was always home when we were, even when she worked outside the home. And even though she made arrangements at work for special hours, she earned merit raises because she routinely out-worked her male co-workers, which they were never happy about. She was the hardest working person I’ve ever known. She did so much with so little and helped me realize I often need less than I think. I’m half the mom she was, always having to work a 40 hour week, tolerating a dirty house because I just couldn’t do it all, afraid to let the son be independent and try things on his own, nagging him into getting his Eagle Scout and GED, pushing him now as an adult to try college (wait, she did that for me as well). There, but less than.
She always bragged about her children that even though we might not make huge salaries, all 4 of us get out of bed and go to work every day, which wasn’t true for some of her siblings and many of her friends. We learned that work ethic from her. The hard part is she was all about “potential”. She always thought we could do better, earn another degree, get a better job, earn more money, find a better house, save more for retirement. She didn’t spare any words about her opinions.
I moved two hours drive away from her to get away from her opinions. She made sure to visit a few times a year when I couldn’t afford to go see her. She would call (in the days when long distance was an extra charge) when she knew I couldn’t afford the extra phone bill. She would send me newspaper articles she thought would be pertinent to my advancement. After the son was born and I went back to college she supported my family with groceries and paper products and clothing purchases. She applauded every effort I made toward a better life, every step forward I took, even when it might not have been her choice because she knew I had to live my life my way.
Despite how hard my teen years and early 20s were with her while I was establishing myself in the work world, I think my 50s were the hardest years for both of us. She was retired then and unable to work because of the emphysema she suffered, but if she’d been able to work I bet she would have done. As it was she gardened, and quilted, and crafted, and cooked from scratch, making sure every day to have a meal on the table for the son who lived with her when he got home from work, until the day she died. She’d been through her 50s and 60s and 70s, starting into her 80s and she knew how hard these years are and how fast the retirement years creep up on you. She passed away when I was 59, when she was 83.
In my late 40s I began calling her “Mommy” again, which was often received with an amused smile/smirk. By then I had gained a greater appreciation of what she had done, and did for me, and a vastly greater affection. When I called her Mommy in public, people often smiled: one old woman (I always had more white hair than she ever did) calling another old woman “Mommy”, a baby word.
She did her best to help me prepare by, wait for it, sharing her opinions. I would get glassy eyed and not respond to what she was saying. She would accuse me of fluffing her off or checking out of the conversation or just plain ignoring her. She’d say, “Are you paying attention?” or “Do you hear me?”. We finally came to an understanding when I was able to explain I wasn’t checking out at all; when those moments occurred I was processing what she was saying. Mom’s opinions were good and I told her that, but her experience and knowledge worked for her in her way. I had to have time to take her ideas and opinions and advice into my own brain and make them mine. I often wasn’t able to use her ideas her way; I had to do them my way. Because I was able to explain, she learned to give me my processing time knowing I was honoring her with my processes. And because of her I own a mortgage, a property tax bill, two retirement accounts, a whole bunch of intelligence, and the ability to think critically. That’s what she taught me, after all, to think for myself.
Today I am missing her ear. I’ve been through a rough patch for several months. Rough patches are nothing new in my life and were part of her life as well. I’ve never been without work for this long in my life. I have physical limitations as I am much older now than the last time I sought work. Mom always extended me the kindness of listening to my concerns, to my complaints, to my plans, to my regular ideas and my crazy ideas, to my wildest dreams. She listened while I talked myself into and out of good ideas and good plans and bad ideas and bad plans. I’m not saying she always listened without judging, but if I could pick up the phone, dial her up, and hear her voice I’d be in heaven which is where I like to imagine she is.
I have a picture of her here at my writing desk, facing me as if we have a constant conversation. I like to think of her unheard current opinions being whispered directly to my brain as I write, and research, and plan for my unknown future. Whenever I was down (almost every time I talked with her) she’d say, “Chin up, babe” and whenever she wrote to me she would close with the same phrase. Chin up and get up for another day. Chin up and face the world. Chin up and don’t let them get you down; they don’t know who you are.
If you still have your mother (or a mother-in-law you love, don’t worry about the spouse, that’s up to them) and you are are on good terms take the time to pick up the phone, go see her, spend your time with her, talk with her, ask about and listen to her stories. And if you are not on good terms there is no time like today to mend those fences if you can (sometimes you can’t and that’s ok). You never know when it will be too late and the stories are gone.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Indian fire pokers (that’s what my grandma called them when I was a kid, we’d cut them and pretend they were flaming swords) looking like bursts of red, orange, and yellow flame. Pink and pale yellow honeysuckle, so sweetly fragrant. Roses have begun their blossoming beauty parade in the Pacific Northwest.
Current View – Finished Jack Taylor (2010, not rated) an Irish detective crime series set in Galway from the novels of Ken Bruen starring Iain Glen, who also did Game of Thrones, as a detective who is dismissed from the Garda (Irish national police) and becomes a private investigator. Intricate 90 minute intense stories. * The Killing (2011, not rated) detective crime TV series set in Seattle. I avoided this series because of the title, but Patti Smith liked it (see M Train recommendation in Currently Reading), so I had to try it. Not a lot of graphic violence, engaging characters, many plot twists, but nearly every outdoor scene it is raining heavily. I know it rains in Seattle, but you can’t convince me it rains that much, even in October and November. I get it; it’s Seattle and the repeated views of the Space Needle are enough to remind me without the constant rain.
Currently Reading – House of Daughters (2006, fiction) by Sarah-Kate Lynch, one of my favorite authors. Seem to be on a theme of House and Home with my fiction title choices lately. The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts (2012, psychology and physical fitness) by Hanne Blank, another of my favorite authors. Finished M Train (2015, autobiographical musings) by Patti Smith. Ms Smith continues to amaze with her acid-washed dreamscape exploration of grief and growth as she passes her 66th birthday, missing her late husband and brother, reminiscing about past adventures. Worth your time. Finished The Two-Family House (2016, fiction) by Lynda Cohen Loigman, starts in 1947 Brooklyn: a straightforward, unambiguous story of two sisters-in-law who have babies on the same day in the same room of a shared family house, an unspoken agreement, and the decades long division and loss it brings. Recommended. Yes, concurrently.
This week I have been grateful for:
- Pictures and memories of my mother. Hearing her voice of encouragement in my head.
- Making it through another week with zero income.
- A job interview. Nice to have the chance at least, but didn’t get the job, which I really wanted and thought I was extremely suited for so I can only hope there must be another out there waiting for me.
- Remembering it’s not how many times they knock me down, but how many times I pick myself back up that counts.
- Enjoying the time to view an informative university library display about Carnegie libraries.
- Time to read and write and research and dream.
- Dreaming about bookstores.
- Getting through the hubster’s birthday this week with no drama.
- The hubster’s help cutting a couple dreadlocks off the inside of Mister Kitty’s, aka George Murphy, thighs where he is so sensitive to being touched.
- Cleaning the overhead fan last week before the hubster turned it on to beat the heat.
- The silvery sun-dapples through the neighbor’s birch trees splashing all over my kitchen and dining area.
- Other people’s yards full of flowers.
- Farmer’s markets opening for the season and fresh asparagus. Coming soon: fresh Oregon strawberries.
Hoping you have a lovely week.
Namaste. Peace. Blessings.
Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch
Floral paragraph dividers by Susan Branch