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Happy Mother's Day - Tribute to my Mom
The last time I talked with my Mom was Mother's Day...in 1991. She died 6 days later on May 18,1991. I had to work and was not able to visit her on Mother's Day, but we spoke on the phone for several hours. My Mom and I were very close, she was my buddy. We shopped together, hung out, talked about books, politics, dogs, and just about anything else you can think of. My Mom was an incredible woman!
Mom grew up dirt poor, the 6th child of an Oklahoma dust bowl farmer. They moved to California in the 40s. She played basketball in high school and was a great student. She got married and had my first sister at 17. In those days, Moms did not go to school, so she dropped out. She worked off and of during the first couple of years of Motherhood. She had my second sister at 21. She divorced the girls' dad a couple of years later and went to work at a glass bottle factory.
My Dad and Mom met at a dance and were together pretty much from day one. Dad was a dashing Army man, and Mom was instantly smitten. They were married a few months later. Dad also brought two children to the family, so they had an instant four children. Guess what? Another one came along right away (me)!
When I was only 5 months old Mom got to experience her first military wife move. My Dad went to Germany first and had to wait for quarters. Mom came soon after with a baby and her two girls in tow. We spent two years in Germany and then moved again. During that time period, my Dad's two children came to live with us. So they had 5 children, ranging from 2-9 years old and had been married two years. Eighteen months later we were back in Germany. This time Dad went first and Mom followed with FIVE children in tow. First we drove cross country to visit our Grandparents. Honestly, I've traveled with one child and I can not imagine being 27 years old and driving cross country or traveling to a foreign country with five children! My Mom took it all in stride though. She did what had to be done with little fuss - after all what was the use in fussing when there was work to be done?
On our next trip to America, Mom had one more baby. We now totaled four girls and two boys. Mom volunteered in all of our classrooms when we went to school. She was also a Girl Scout leader and a Boy Scout Pack Mom. She also found time to do any and every craft she could. She loved to sew and made most of our clothes. Every time we traveled she made matching outfits for her and the kids. In her spare time she knitted and crocheted. And she loved to read. Mom instilled a love of reading and a thirst for knowledge in all of us kids, even though she did not graduate from high school.
During the next trip to Germany, my baby brother was old enough for preschool. Mom enrolled in classes too and earned her GED. Then she started college classes. She earned an AA while still doing all the homey things she did. She taught us girls how to do all of the home arts and how to cook basic, inexpensive meals. Because we lived on a military salary, Mom became very good at saving money and stretching dollars. She went to the commissary (grocery store) only once a month. We always had a freezer and she froze milk and bread and almost everything else you could think of. She also grew some vegetables on the balcony in pots. Mom went to work when her youngest child was old enough to go to school. We needed the money and she really enjoyed being a contributor. She rode a motorcycle to work to save fuel money.
Mom spent a lot of time talking with us girls about being a woman. She instilled in us that our bodies were a natural thing and that being a woman did not limit us in any way. She wasn't a femi-nazi, but she believed in equality for all people. We had many conversations sitting at the table, making sure we all understood the natural functions and just talking over life. The most important thing my Mom instilled, at least in me, is the attitude of "I Can". Whenever I tried to say "I can't" she would say "ole Cain't never could do anything". It really wasn't allowed to wallow in pity and feel sorry because you couldn't find a way. Resourcefulness was highly admired.
As my older brother and sisters moved out, Mom and I became closer. Mom put on great parties for my friends and I - she would make all kinds of cookies and cupcakes and dress up for Halloween. During my teenage years, I really can only recall one 'fight' I had with Mom. I had wrecked Dad's car and wanted to drive Mom's. She was on the fence for a bit but finally said no. She explained that it was the only way for her and Dad to get to work, they were already having to share and it was difficult. I was young and selfish and did not understand at the time. But I'm glad she was firm with us. She instilled a sense of self discipline because she was logical and explained why we couldn't do something, at least most of the time. I really don't remember a time when I felt like I couldn't tell my Mom something - there were no secrets.
When I got married, I still went over to Mom and Dad's house pretty much every day to visit and have dinner. A few months later, they had to move for Dad's job. It was the first time I was away from my parents and I missed them. I was both a Mamma's and Daddy's girl. But I remembered how much determination Mom had throughout the years, and I found ways to keep in touch and visit when I could. They were only an hour away but it seemed far at the time. Before long, my husband and I decided to attend college. We moved to a new city, started new jobs and started classes. I was determined to finish as quickly as possible, and I had to work at the same time to support myself. On top of that, I had been trying to get pregnant for almost 2 years, so I was going through testing too. I kept in touch with Mom and Dad as much as I could, but I was very busy.
When I talked to Mom on Mother's Day, 1991 I made tentative plans to visit the next weekend. I woke up Saturday, May 18, 1991 with a terrible gut feeling. I literally could almost not get out of bed. It wasn't a physical ailment, but an emotional and overwhelming feeling that something was not right. I blew off my visit because I just couldn't get out of bed. The phone rang that night just after we got in bed...I honestly don't remember the time. My husband answered and I could tell it was bad. He told me that my Mom had been shot and killed by my older brother. I was in complete shock. I don't remember much other than riding down the road crying. My baby brother still lived at home, but he was out that evening. He came home to the madness of an investigation. My Dad was only alive because the gun jammed. He was also in shock.
The days that followed were filled with kindness from people who knew my Mom. She was the kind of person who would help anyone with anything she could. She fed neighbor children who did not have enough to eat. She gave clothes to neighbor children who didn't seem to have enough. She crocheted blankets and slippers for everyone she met. She was a very giving and open person. She had taken in two of my nephews for a year while my sister got her life together. She allowed one of my school friends to stay out our home when she had nowhere else to go. I simply could not believe she was gone.
I still can not believe she is gone. I still have trouble understanding and accepting how she left us. I don't know the whys. I just know I have to live my life in a way that would make her proud. She is in my heart and in my head so much. I hear her voice when I feel like I want to give up, encouraging me to succeed. In my eyes she was so brave and such a pioneer. This year the dates fall on the same day as they did in 1991. Some years I survive May and some I simply fall apart. It will be 22 years and I still miss her and think about her every day. I find myself talking to her as if she were here. And once in a great while she visits me in a dream. These words can't begin to describe what a wonderful, courageous and beautiful woman my Mother was.