My dad passed away twenty-one years ago and my mom's been gone almost fourteen years. I still miss them both terribly. Too often, we don't really appreciate our parents until they're gone. I'm ashamed to admit that's the case for me. I was always quite dependent upon my parents, and I fought against that dependence. I was a difficult daughter.
Mom was a gentle soul...good-natured, a bit naive. Dad used to compare her to Betty White's character, Rose, on The Golden Girls. Mom put up with more crap than she really should have. Certainly more than I would have. Especially from two of her sisters, henceforth known as The Harpies. They treated her like a doormat. If they said jump, she would ask how high. I suppose being the youngest in a family of nine kids, she grew up accustomed to being pushed around.
But she did have a dark side. If grudge-holding were an Olympic event, Mom would have taken the gold every time. The worst part was that most of her grudges made no sense. She couldn't stand one of my writer friends...even though the woman had never done anything to deserve such wrath. In fact, Mom barely knew her.
She would take every bit of crap the two Harpies (William has two Harpies as well--I wonder why they seem to travel in pairs?) dished out at her, but had been estranged for many years from her brother Tommy, my favorite uncle. There was a time Tommy was her best ally. When most of the family sat in judgment when Mom married Dad, Tommy was the one who stood by her. They were so close for so long. What happened? To this day, I don't get it.
Mom and I were close, for the most part. It was Mom who gave me my love of horses, having started riding herself at a very early age. (When they were dating, Dad gave her a rather extravagant gift: three palomino horses, one pictured below.) She taught me to ride, putting me in the saddle with her when I could barely walk. It was so natural to me that I was never afraid on a horse...even after a nasty fall when I was eight years old.
It was also Mom who instilled in me the desire to be a writer. When my love of books emerged with my discovery of Charlotte's Web, Mom would buy me a new book every week. She told me of her own dreams of becoming a writer/illustrator of comic books. She was quite good at both. She gave up writing, but continued to draw and paint until diabetes began to affect her vision.
Grandma once said her three youngest children were artists, but the other six couldn't draw anything but flies.
Mom took the above photos of a few of her paintings.
Photography wasn't one of her talents.
Mom was born to be a mother and grandmother. She was infinitely patient, comforting, and protective, though not much of a disciplinarian. That was left to Dad. Sarah Palin talks of the Mama Grizzly--my mother WAS the Mama Grizzly. Anyone who hurt her kids was putting their own life on the line. She was slow to anger, but that would do it.
In the last two years of her life, after the first stroke, our roles were reversed. She became childlike and I was the caretaker. In the last six months before her death, she didn't recognize me or Collin. In some ways, I think the loss of her memory was a blessing. I hoped she wouldn't remember the bad moments between us. I hoped she wouldn't remember how certain members of her family had abandoned her when she needed them most. I hoped she wouldn't remember the two ungrateful children who had not been there for her when she was so sick. I hoped she wouldn't remember how one of them had conned her out of almost every dime Dad had worked so hard to save for her.
I miss her. I wish she and Dad were here with me now. Happy Mother's Day, Mom....