Mother's Day Tribute to My Mom
A Very Special Mom and Grandma
The last time I spoke with my Mom was Mother's Day, 1991. We talked on the phone for over three hours, just gabbing and having fun, as we always did. I made plans to drive to her home the next weekend because I had to work that Mother's Day. By then she was gone, a victim of a violent crime. I was devastated. My husband drove and I remember just looking out the window crying the whole two hour drive. Thus hub is not about Mom's death, but about her life, how she lived and what a special lady she was.
Mom's early years were hard. She was born at the tail end of the depression, the youngest child of a poor farming family. They moved around a lot and ended up running a chicken farm. Perhaps it was the times, or the circumstances, but Mom ended up getting married at 16. My oldest sister was born the next year. Mom didn't finish high school. Sometime after my second sister was born, Mom was divorced. She got a job and managed to support herself and her two daughters. She met a young Army Private with his own two children and they got married. Along came two more children. We were the original Brady Bunch, sort of.
By the time she was 25 my Mom was raising 6 children. And living the military life. My Dad was stationed overseas, and we were to follow as soon as there was housing available. Mom took us on an epic road trip. Twice. By herself. With six kids. I have traveled with one child. It is strenuous to say the least. To keep track of six, I really can't imagine. I didn't understand the scope of her bravery until I had a child of my own. I honestly don't know if she was never afraid, or if she was very good at hiding being afraid. She seemed fearless to me, no matter the situation.
We moved a lot, because Dad was a "lifer" in the Army. Each time, as we prepared to move, Mom had a routine. First, she went through everything and decided what we did and didn't need. Then she started work on our matching outfits. Every single time we moved, she sewed matching outfits for all six of us. I don't know if she thought it would keep us together to look the same, or if it was just a way to pass the time until it was time to go. Or if she thought we looked funny. She found a way to deal with everything in a humorous vein.
My Mom was handy in a way that I did not understand was unusual until much later in life. I remember from an early age, the hammer and screwdriver that were often in her hands. No matter what happened in our home, Mom could fix it. Of course we never had a huge disaster. When it came time to upholster a sofa or build a school project, Mom always had the right tools. Long before Google even thought of coming along, my Mom had a seemingly endless stream of knowledge of "how to do" anything.
Surprisingly, for the total number of limbs we had, none ever was broken. Unless you count my sister's concussion when she flipped over her bike. When we did get hurt, Mom had a intricate knowledge of home remedies. None of us ever got sick, because we didn't want the caster oil thing. We almost never went to the doctor, because Mom had a way to fix just about whatever and a strong belief that hospitals made you sicker.
My Mom and I were always close. I was her take along kid, the quiet one who behaved and kept herself entertained. She was very involved in all of our activities, Girl Scout leader for each of her daughters, little league for the boys. Even after she started working when the youngest was in school, she still managed to make many games and school functions. She taught so many useful things to all of her daughters - cooking, baking, sewing, crochet, knitting, embroidery and simply making do. We were not rich by any means, but Mom always managed to make or procure what we needed.
While she was raising six kids and working, Mom went back to school, got her GED and then started College classes. One of her favorite sayings when I was growing up was "Ole Cain't Never Could Do Anything". She illustrated to me, over and over again, a can-do attitude. When things didn't happen easily, she still found a way to persevere and make them happen. I have found myself thinking of her, and her way of just keeping on when I'm at my wit's end. Whatever she wanted to do, she did. She wanted to learn how to do ceramics, bam, we all learned how to do ceramics. She wanted to ride a Harley to work to save on gas, bam we all had a go at it on an old dirt road. This was a woman who never took "no" for an answer.
When my sister couldn't care for her kids, my Mom took them in for a year. I got to see her as a Grandma, and saw how kind and loving and giving she was. The kids absolutely adored her, even though she was a strict disciplinarian. She only had to look at the large wooden spoon on the wall for any of us to get back in line. When my Grandma became ill, Mom went to her home in another state to stay there and take care of her, then she rented a trailer and moved my sick Aunt back with her. Whenever someone needed something, Mom was the first person in line to help. She knew what it was to struggle, and didn't like seeing others in that kind of situation.
I only remember two instances in my life in which I thought "My Mom doesn't understand me". First, she got me a unicycle for Christmas one year. I thought it was finally a TV for my room. Luckily I sneaked and opened it early, and rewrapped it, so I was able to seem grateful when the time came to unveil it. The second time happened when I was 16. I wrecked my Dad's car and Mom wouldn't let me drive hers. She explained that it was the only way she and Dad had to get to work until his car was fixed. I totally didn't understand then, but I'm so glad she stood firm even though it must have been hard to have me railing at her on and on and on. Mom was strict and tough, but in a way that never made me doubt it was out of love.
As I got older, Mom became more and more my friend. We enjoyed shopping and antiquing together and spent many hours working on sewing projects. Mom designed and sewed my prom dress when I couldn't find one I liked. She taught me how to find bargains and how to make whatever I had better without spending a lot. We planned my wedding, and she understood when I told her we had eloped. She had a computer long before other folks even knew what a computer was, and at one time during college she talked me through formatting a paper. She was with me through almost two years of infertility. She encouraged me to keep trying because "Ole Cain't Never Could".
I became pregnant shortly after she died. I remember breaking down one day, and only that day, feeling sorry for myself that she would never be my child's Grandma. Then I pulled myself together, as she would have, and started thinking about how I could keep her in my child's life. When he was born, he had a strawberry birthmark on his forehead that looked to me like a set of lips. My Mom used to blot her lipstick ALL the time and leave tissues everywhere. I like to think she kissed his forehead on the way out. She has often come to visit me in dreams, not in a spiritual sense. It actually seems like we are together again, shopping and having a fun time. When I wake up I feel very peaceful.