Celebrating mom, not just on Mother’s Day

My mom is 82 years-old.Mom's Birthday 023yes

Every step she takes is excruciating for her, and so she spends much of her time sitting in her chair with her dog by her side, watching television.

She complains that with all the television stations the cable company offers, she still can’t find anything to watch.

“I’m going to cancel cable, I think,” she says, but she never does.

My mom doesn’t like to do much of anything else. Every hobby I suggest is met with a slow shake of her head.

“Would you like me to get you a good book?”

“No…” she says. “I used to like to read.  I don’t know what happened.”

“How about a craft….scrap booking, maybe?”

“No….” she says with a sigh.

She likes doing the daily crossword puzzle in the local paper, and at least, that seems to be keeping her mind active.

I sit and talk with her when I can.  I tell her about the changing landscape of the city-new businesses that are going in up the street, old buildings that are getting knocked down to make room for the new.

I offer to take her out on nice days to show her.

She shakes her head.

“It’s just too hard,” she says.

She has started using the laptop I encouraged her to buy so she could stay informed about what is going on in the world. But she doesn’t understand any of it and seems to find comfort in what’s wrong with the world today, instead of what is right.

“I don’t understand why people come over to visit me and then sit there texting on their phones instead of talking,” she told me one day.

I shrug my shoulders. “That’s just what people do now,” I say. “It’s not right. It’s just what is.”

She looks at me and laughs. “Yeah…I suppose. I’m just lost, is all.”

Her statement makes me want to cry.

My mother, a once active and vibrant woman lost more than a spouse when my dad died five years ago. She lost the desire to participate in life.

She doesn’t say it, but she’s mad. She’s mad at her situation and mad that my dad left her alone. She’s mad that she can’t do many things she used to.  I have tried to lift her spirits, to make her see that she still has a lot of life to live, but she just doesn’t seem to care anymore. She is just existing.

I wrote my mom’s story for the family a few years ago and through our many conversations, I learned that my mother may not have had the best of everything, but she certainly did the best with what she had.

My mom grew up during the Depression, and though times were tough, her parents made sure the kids never went hungry. Grandpa trapped squirrels and caught catfish from the river.  She told me that there were several times her parents went without meals so she and her brother had enough to eat.

She said she started working when she was 11, at a downtown laundry business. She remembered how they had to take salt pills because they sweated so much.

She found herself having to carry the burden when my dad was in a terrible car accident when I was 4. He nearly died, and couldn’t work for a year. With nine kids to feed, she worked nights and took care of the family and my dad during the day. She worked until she was 63, and traveled with my dad to exotic destinations before my dad became sick.

“I miss him everyday,” she told me one time, as she gazed at his picture sitting next her on the table. “But sometimes I feel like he’ s still here.”

This woman, who means the world to me, who picked me up when I fell, who dried my tears after breaking up with a boyfriend, who shared my happiness on my wedding day and over the birth of my children, who encouraged me when I didn’t think I could go on, who always taught me to be the best person I could be….

…this beautiful woman, proved to me time and again, what it means to be a mother.

It means sacrificing your happiness so your children could have a better life. It means going without, so your kids could have new clothes to start school.

Being a mother means being there when your child needs you. It means spending sleepless nights worrying about their well-being. It means never, ever forgetting what it means to be a mother.

My mother taught me well.

Though her anger and sadness seem to cloud over her love for life, she is still the loving and devoted mother she has always been.

My mom and I don’t always agree on everything, and I doubt we ever will. But I know that she loves me and would do anything for me. Now I have the opportunity to show my appreciation by being here for her.

Mother’s Day is not just a day to recognize and celebrate my mom, because I celebrate her everyday.

But rather, it’s a day to remember why we become mothers in the first place and to pass on that love only a  mother can give, and only a mother can receive.

The love between a mother and child-the love that lives forever.

A tribute to my mother

My mother turned 81 years old this year. Her health is declining and she rarely leaves the house. She has her faithful companion, Bindi, an Australian-Border Collie mix, to keep her company. She feels isolated much of the time, shut out from the rest of the world, with only her visitors and the TV to fill her in on what is happening outside her domain.

My mom’s health began to decline after my father died three years ago. She went into a deep depression and told me that she had nothing left to live for. Though we assured her that she did, she just hasn’t quite gotten over the fact that her partner of almost 50 years is gone.

Eighty-one years is a long time and my mother has filled a very colorful life. She grew up during the depression and still tells stories of the family not having enough to eat and how her dad hunted squirrel and rabbit, which they ate without even thinking twice about it.

She remembers the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, how the newsboy shouted on the corner downtown about it.

She remembers when my dad had his accident in 1967, and almost died, and how they struggled to raise nine children.

She remembers losing a son, how it felt to get that phone call. And she remembers how after every tragedy, she picked up the pieces, put them back together again, and moved on.

And she is doing that now.

My mom is nearing the end of her life and is trying to accept it. With her limited mobility, it must be excruciating to ask others for help, especially when she has always been the glue that has kept our family together.

My mother has taken care of everyone  else her whole life, and now it’s time for her to be taken care of, but she can’t stand it. Her independent nature is apparent as she struggles to carry on her everyday life.

My mother has been through so much and I’ve asked her before how she ever got through it. Her answer to me? “I just did, I had no choice.”

The thing that stands out most to me about my mother is the strength that she possessed when her world was falling apart around her. Her perseverance to maintain order in a world of chaos amazes me. And so does she.

Happy Mother’s day, Mom. You have no idea how many lives you have touched throughout your life. And know that when you didn’t think I was watching or listening, I was. And I still am.

My mother’s gift

My mother recently turned 80 years old, which she thinks is a miracle because both her parents died when they were 78.  That entire year she thought she was going to go join my dad.  However, that didn’t happen and we are blessed to have her for a few more years.

My mom, Betty, when she was 18 months old

My mother is a strong woman.  I have always known that.  She had eight children and was step-mother to my half-brother, Tim, but to him, she was always Mom. She was married to a man who didn’t always treat her the way she deserved and she knew when to say goodbye.

She worked outside the home, which was unusual for mothers to do back in the ‘50s, but she really had no choice.  She had to support her family somehow.

My mother met my dad when he he joined the ad agency she worked at as a receptionist.  His famous pick-up line, “I have some Jackie Gleason records. Do you have a record player?” became an inside joke that they played with throughout the years.

My dad was in a terrible car accident when I was 4, which incapacitated him for almost a year.  My mother worked nights at Collins and visited him in Iowa City during the day. I remember wanting her to stay home because I missed her, to which she shook her head and said, “You’ll understand someday.”

My mother is a strong woman. I have never known her any other way.  Even when my brother, Pat, died in a car accident in California, she didn’t fall apart, but I knew she wanted to.  She held the rest of the family together, just as she had done so many times before.

After my father died two years ago, I saw a side of her I had never seen before. She wanted to give up.  I know she did.  But she didn’t, even though she missed him so much.  After grieving for a while, I think she came to conclusion that my dad wasn’t really gone. She keeps his side table the way it was the day he died.  I think it comforts her, so we don’t push her to put his things away.  It’s a comfort to us, too.

When my mother turned 80 this year, she made us promise not to buy her any presents. So what could I do that would show her how much I loved her, how much I appreciated her, how much she means to our family? I decided that I would try to write her life story, as much as I could in a month, anyway.

Each morning that I was able, I would sit and talk to her about her life.  I started at the beginning and took notes, just like I would any interview. But as I sat and listened to her amazing, I realized that I was getting to know my mother as Betty, someone I couldn’t have possibly known before.  To me she has always been Mom, but when I began talking to her about the things that she endured, her heartaches and her triumphs, I realized that I was getting to know my mother as a person.

My mother today

That sounds silly, I know, but when I sat with her and allowed her to open up about things she had almost forgotten, I could see a spark in her eyes that I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

I am so glad I could give this gift to my mother. Just sitting and talking with her has made our relationship even better, something that I know we both treasure.

My mother is a strong woman.  She has seen more in her lifetime than most people have.  But I think that it’s that strength that has made it easier for her to keep moving forward, even when she thought it was impossible.  It’s that strength that she passes on to her children and grandchildren, a strength that will live on for generations to come.