Mothers

My Mother

Many of us think of Mother’s Day as being a celebration of our mothers or our mothering of our children. But, there are many kinds of mothers and mothering. There are even some men who mother. Mothers are caring, loving, giving nurturers of all kinds.

A friend without children mentioned her husband was taking her out to dinner for Mother’s Day. I should say without human children as she mothers six furry kids, three dogs and three cats. One of the dogs, a sweet little Sheltie, is trained as a hospice dog. Together he and my friend visit a local hospice weekly to comfort people who are dying and bring a moment of cheer to their families.

I know people who are caregivers of an infirm parent. Roles have been reversed with the child mothering their mother or father.

Some of you have written to me about raising grandchildren. That reminds me of the man behind the counter at a store I frequent. He recently revealed how his daughter died in a car accident and he, a widower, is raising his grandchild as both mother and father.

Many of us retire to find ourselves mothering an ill spouse. We take on most, if not all, of the day to day responsibilities of running the household as well as caring for our partner.

There are even those of us who mother Mother Earth, tenderly caring for gardens, watching seedlings grow to mature plants with the pride of any mother watching a child grow into a fine human being.

Yes, there are mothers of all kinds caring, loving, giving and nurturing.  And we honor all of them today.

To mothers everywhere, no matter your gender or who or what your charge,

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Mothers Are Forever

My Mother

My Mother

Not everyone is a mother but everyone has a mother. My mother died in 2008. Yet she is still with me and always will be. Mothers are forever. She is inside my head and my heart. She is in the eyes that look back at me from my bathroom mirror each morning. She is in the hundred cliches I mouth about life’s tributes and trials. She is in my sense of fairness, of responsibility, of duty. She is in my love of gardening, painting and writing.

A mother’s influence and presence is forever _ even if you never really knew her or she is now gone.

Like most people my relationship with my mother had good times and not so good times. As a small child I loved dressing up in her long orange ruched gloves, veiled hats and rhinestone bracelets. My mother often played out story book roles with me. I was Little Red Riding Hood to her Grandmother and the Big Bad Wolf. She read me Walt Whitman poems. But, she also had difficulty letting me go as a teen and young woman. Advice was often forthcoming whether I wanted it or not. And her advice was often contrary to what I did or thought I should do. This strained our relationship. Still, she was the person I could count on to help me out in a pinch.

She taught me right from wrong, how to hold a tea cup in polite society (your pinky finger must be held out from the cup handle in a slight curve), make a bed with squared corners and the best apple dumplings ever. She taught me to say, “excuse me” and “please” and “thank you”, to have respect for my elders. She also taught me to stand up for myself and not give in or give up if principles were at stake.

My mother had a wry sense of humor, somewhat sarcastic.  She saw life’s ironies.  Me, too.  When it came to her red hair and aging, she quipped, “Red heads never dye.  They just fade away.”

She was kind and helpful to people, including strangers. I remember leaving Asbury Park late one week night after shopping. On the way to our car, we encountered a distraught teenager who just missed the last bus to take her home. With businesses closing their doors and turning off lights the streets were quickly becoming deserted. Even though it was miles out of our way, my mother offered the girl a ride home. When she hesitated, my mother took out her police badge, showed it to the teen and told her she would be safe. We took the girl home. As my mother walked the teen to the door of her house and spoke to her father, I could see the gratitude on the man’s face.

Mothers are caretakers. Mothers are influencers. Mothers are leaders. Mothers are shapers of society as they are shapers of their children’s beliefs, abilities and character. Mothers are strong, resilient, resourceful and constant. Mothers are the very fiber that knit our society together. Mothers never leave us. They are always with us in our actions, our words, the voice in our head, the face in our mirror. Mothers are forever.

Whether your mother is with you or not, tell her thank you with gratitude in your heart for all she has given you, including life itself.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

LETTERS TO MY MOTHER

Letters To My Mother was originally posted in February. In honor of my mother and mothers everywhere, I’m re-posting it for Mothers’ Day.

A year ago my older brother and his wife visited. They brought with them a shoe box full of memories. Our mother passed away in 2008 shortly after her 90th birthday celebration. There were, of course, a lifetime of photos and memorabilia left behind. My brother and sister-in-law sorted through it all making a shoe box for each of us siblings. While I dutifully looked through my assortment of photos upon their arrival last year, I didn’t really look at the contents carefully until just now.

Finding the emotional will to take a close look at what was inside the box, I lifted the lid. There is an ornament, which my mother intended to give me at Christmas the year she died. I love Christmas time and beautiful ornaments as did she. Part of her legacy to me. Then, there are all the photos, many of which I had given to my parents over the years. Photos of my daughters as babies, as girls, as young women. Photos of my parents on their trip to visit us in Seattle. My Dad died two years after that visit, in 1989. Photos of our family as we lived in different parts of the country, in different houses with different pets, clothing and hair styles. Beneath all of the photos were letters.

I pulled out the letters, opening them one by one, reading them through and reliving that moment in my personal history. Most were chatty letters, detailing the normalcy of our lives to my parents and then, just my mother. They were letters about my daughters’ schools and activities, basketball, softball, ballet and piano. They were letters about our jobs and travel. My weekly trips to cities throughout the country closing multi-million dollar real estate deals. Trips which frequently enabled me to visit my younger brother and his family in Dallas. They were letters about our vacations to the desert of Washington state, the San Juan Islands and Canada, when you could easily cross into that country without a passport. They were just letters about an every day life.

Then there is the letter I wrote in the spring of 2007, one year before my mother died. The letter is one I had totally forgotten until now. I unfolded the letter, remembering the special paper I’d chosen with the pink flowered border. Teal, yellow and pink colored butterflies hover around the flowers as if sipping nectar. Instead of hand writing the letter I had typed it. Looking back and considering the content of the letter, a hand-written letter would have been more personal. But, we had entered the computer age so even letters to my mother had become typed and printed in recent years. This letter was not so chatty, not so everyday but, rather, a diary of what I had accomplished so far in my life. This letter was a thank you letter to my mother for my life. With tears streaming down my cheeks and a pile of used tissues in my lap, I read the final line. “So, on my 55th birthday, Thank You Mom for my wonderful life. I love you.” I signed my name after that last line, the only handwritten addition from me. Although I had typed the date on this particular letter, my mother’s handwritten date of receipt appears in the upper corner of the first page, her writing shaky and uneven.

As I fold the letter and place it back in the shoe box, I have a lot of thoughts. We don’t send letters anymore handwritten or otherwise. We email. We Facebook. We text message. Like the news everything is said in blips. We don’t often say the things to people we should say when they are alive. For all the times I told my mother I loved her, I’m glad I took the time to actually articulate my gratitude for all the things she did for me. My only regret is I didn’t do the same for my Dad. So, today, wherever you are, tell the people who mean the most to you exactly that. Even better, put it in writing so they can touch it and feel it and read it again and again. Tell them how much you appreciate having them in your life, your wonderful life.