Seventeen years. That's how long she's been gone if my math is correct. That is such a long time to miss your mom. Of course, since my dad has been gone almost 40 years, I guess it's all relative. I'm none too happy they didn't both stick around longer--cancer is hard to argue with sometimes. I thought of that when I turned down supplemental cancer insurance yesterday.
On her cemetery tombstone (do we still call them that or is there a more pc term?), we wrote "Calm, Loyal, Loving, Strong" because those were the four words I thought described her best. No one argued with me because I wasn't at my best that week. As I reconsider, I'm not sure I would change any one of them. Here's a snapshot of a wonderful woman:
Calm: Well, okay, I didn't get that gene. She put up with a crummy boss for 20 years. My record is two. She also didn't ever spank me. (Okay, there was the one time when I was a mouthy teenager and said something sassy in public and she slapped me. We were both shocked. I guess even the calmest person has a limit.) She didn't yell much. In fact, truthfully, I can't remember her yelling at all. She did use some colorful language once in a while; that trait skipped a generation to a couple of my kids, but only one or two favorites and they usually are apt. I have been known to yell and while spanking wasn't my go-to parenting style, I remember reaching my limit with my kids when they were younger than five and giving a few swats. I regret that. Mom took things in stride. She accepted what couldn't be changed and dealt the hand she was given. I should have tried harder to learn that.
Loyal: If someone said something to her against one of her children, I imagine they only did it once. She thought we could do no wrong. lol But it was more than that her thinking we were perfect. She was loyal to confidences. I learned only a few years ago that my neighborhood best friend's family across the street had police visits for domestic issues more than one night. I never knew. My parents didn't talk about people. Well, except for J.R.--the boss. Bless his heart. (That's what my daughter and I say right after we imply something mean about someone.) I did learn this trait from her. My best school friend in 5th grade had the last name of Kawamoto. This was in the 60s when Japanese people in Twin Falls were appreciated mostly for their restaurants. My dad was in the Pacific theater of WWII, but there was never an indication from him or my mom that my friendship with this cute girl was anything but good. Mom probably should have objected to some of my later friends in junior high, but she may have known more than I thought she did and just trusted me. She was also loyal to her family and made sure I had a good relationship with her parents even though they criticized her choice of a husband more than once. (I think they eventually realized that he was perfect for her and a great husband and father.)
Loving: Oh, but she loved us. She wasn't verbally demonstrative, but she rubbed my back for hours at a time; she snuggled with me and with my children whenever the opportunity arose. Now that I realize that she showed love through touch, I regret not rubbing her back or her feet more often. She was a widow for over 20 years; she probably missed that. She showed her love through service. She worked to give her children more educational opportunities. She sewed for me and for my vast array of dolls because I loved those clothes (and dance costumes, bridesmaid dresses, quilts, etc), not because she loved to sew. She kept herself busy in Twin Falls after my dad died partly by planting a huge garden of raspberries. She hated picking raspberries, but she knew that her children and grandchildren loved the jam. (I'm really hoping she gave some of it to my brothers! I sure got plenty!) And if bragging is a way to show love, she loved us more than anyone has ever been loved. I heard every story about my nieces and nephews as soon as she heard anything new, and I'm sure my brothers heard everything good about my kids. After all, she had the most intelligent, athletic, musical, accomplished and clever progeny in the world. And whatever we weren't good at wasn't important and should never be mentioned.
Strong: She worked hard. Her mother worked hard. Sometimes I work hard, but compared to them, I'm a lightweight. When I arose this morning, a day off, I immediately thought of doing something fun. I'd play Words with Friends with my nephew and brother; I'd read something I wanted to read; I'd find something to help me relax. Me, me, me. Then I heard the NPR radio host say it was the 30th and immediately started thinking of Mom. What did she do for herself? For fun? Um, she bowled. For my dad. She golfed for a while. For my dad. I don't remember her reading. She played games with her kids--was that for her or for us? She watched TV, but I think Dad and I chose the programs, at least when I was there. If I ever find out that Dad hated Lawrence Welk, then I'll know she chose that for herself. Mom didn't complain. She did what she had to do. Later in her life, when depression settled in like a fog that wouldn't lift, she didn't do the amount of gardening she had before, and I wonder if that had been something she liked. My kids won't have to think a nano-second about what I did for myself.
I miss my mom. I miss calling her. I miss shopping with her, especially those times when I had "forgotten" my purse. I miss knowing that there was one person on earth who loved me more than they loved anyone else. That was the gift we gave each other since we didn't have spouses that filled that role. I will honor her today by working hard and by adopting the phrase, "Keep Calm and Carry On."