It’s Mother’s Day today, and I’ve been relieved of coffee duty at Church this Sunday. It’s one of those Sundays we don’t staff.
Herself is minding the grandkids, as my daughter has a health issue.
So I’m here alone with my thoughts.
Thoughts of my own mother.
My mom was born in 1930, basically as the depression revved up.
Her family emigrated from Ireland in 1916. A couple of my uncles were born over there. Her father was a prison guard, her mother a maid. He died when she was three years old, she died when my mom was 10. She grew up in poverty that we really can’t fathom these days.
My mom then went to live with her sister whose own husband dropped dead, leaving her with three children.
And here’s the funny thing; at my dad’s funeral one of the old guys from the Knights of Columbus got up and told us things we never knew. His line was great; “Being Irish he would never tell you this, but you better believe you told us” after telling us what he had been telling them for years.
Man, that was a friggin’ punch in the throat. I’m stoic as hell, but nearly lost it.
But my mom was the same way. Most of what we learned about her, we learned from our cousins, whom she babysat and we were told these stories as we are sitting around and drinking after her funeral and my dad’s.
My mom put herself through nursing school working in a lightbulb factory and watching her sister’s kids. She became an RN. That’s what she was doing when she met my dad. My dad worked with her brothers and they set her up on a blind date with him. Total wingmen.
They ended up getting married, and she wanted to have kids. Lots of kids.
And so she did. There are eight of us.
My earliest memories of my mom she was on the older side. But every picture you see of my dad and her when they were young, he’s looking like he won the wife lottery. And so he did. The woman in the pictures has thick dark hair, green eyes, and higher cheekbones than you would expect somebody coming from Ireland. She was stunningly beautiful. Only three of us got those spooky green eyes, and I’m not one of them. Although nearly all of my genetics appear to be from her side of the fambly. Turns out I have a cousin in the old country that’s a Shrek just like me.
She was a tough cookie and she shielded my dad from a lot of the day-to-day bullshit. They were actually a great team. And it didn’t seem so at the time but they were tremendous parents.
I know it’s trite, but they were tough but fair and we knew where we stood. She lived through tough times and had little patience for whining and complaining. Looking back, nothing that happened to us growing up in the 70s and 80s could equal what she went through. Or even what my dad endured growing up. Different, not poor, but sort of messed up.
She had a great sense of humor and a pretty thick skin which she imbued to us. Both her and my dad believed that once we became adults we should do our own thing. We we are raised to be independent. So they wouldn’t say anything unless were making a really horrible decision, I’m guessing. I didn’t learn to way later, well after she died, how worried she was when I bought my first motorcycle. I was 21 years old at the time, why would I care? The world revolved around me at the time.
I remember having a really tough summer, having taken a job that turned out to be misery, buying a truck I probably shouldn’t have, quitting, and my mom becoming sick.
Or let me back up; realizing that my mom was sicker than I realized. She always downplayed her condition. But looking back, after having been through it myself, chemo and radiation is no joke. She was dying, and I didn’t notice until way too late. Did I mention that the world revolved around me at the time?
She finished her therapy and things went pear-shaped.
I remember her puking into the sink, crying, saying she was supposed to feel better after this. I’ve also come to learn that that’s bullshit as well. The first month after chemo and radiation is the worst. Things can go horribly wrong. It sucked for me and I got off easy, as it turns out.
She was dead a few weeks later. She was 53 years old.
My youngest brother and sister were still in high school. My other younger sister was due to be married in three weeks. My mom was trying like hell to be able to make the wedding. The rest of us were all on our own in different ways. My other brother was in college, I was at home trying to figure out what I wanted to do with myself, and my three older sisters were off doing their own thing.
And my dad was due to retire in a month or two.
It hit him like an atom bomb. As I said earlier she shielded him from a lot of the day-to-day crap. As I look back she was a perfect wife and partner. She made sure after he came home from work that he got to have a beer or two, read the paper, eat his dinner, and relax a bit before she hit him with the goings-on of the day which you most certainly filtered. We were shooed away if it were to do anything other than to say hi. Some nob wrote a book about this like it was some magic method. It was common sense, as understood by their generation.
Now he had to deal with all of us. But deal he did. Those years after hold some of my fondest memories of the man.
Now here on Mother’s Day, I look back and think what would’ve been like for her to still be here?
She loved kids.
She would now have something like 15 to 16 grandkids, and 4 great grandkids. My dad absolutely loved my wife, and I’m sure she would’ve as well. Nothing gave him more joy than seeing me with the daughter. My mom would have reveled in grandkids. I’m not sure we’d have left Virginia had they been alive.
Nothing would give me more joy these days than being able to talk to them, and lean on them when I’m troubled. Because no matter what I’m going through was nothing compared to what they did.
I miss her terribly. But I see a lot of the same traits in my own daughters. I get a kick out of it. Watching my oldest deal with her kids reminds me of my mom. Some of it is clearly genetic.
By the way, My wife’s mother died a few years ago as well.
We were never very close, her and I. But there were a couple of events that happened that brought us a lot closer together. I won’t go into those now, it’s sort of private. Let’s say it took me over a decade to ‘make my bones’.
But suffices to say that when she was in managed care, the only parent left, I had an infinite supply of patience. Almost to the end she still had kind of a dry sense of humor and was still a wealth of information we are lucky to have her as long as we did.
She had tons of grandkids. I lost count at 32.
So if your mom is still around, buy roses, take her out to brunch. Enjoy her company. She won’t always be there.