This is one of my favorite photos of me and my mom. It was taken my senior year in High School. They had this weekend full of events. This was an afternoon tea sort of thing. And we laughed because our dresses were much alike in style, but not in color. Mine was bright red and mom’s was all soft blues and tans! LOL! But it was just a joyous time…celebrating an achievement. My mom and I had some beautiful moments, but our relationship has always been a fractious one. We were never “shopping” buddies. I think the only time we shopped was when we would buy clothes for the upcoming school year. And we never went to lunch and shopped. We never window shopped together. We never did crafts – mom does not craft and consequently, neither did I. (Trust me – if you see me with a glue gun, slowly back away…lol). We certainly never hit book stores or museums or anything like that. If we went somewhere together, it was for a specific purpose. I’m sad we never had that sort of relationship. It was all business. LOL. Maybe we clashed so much because we are both strong-willed women. My dad has always said to me, “Just don’t grow up to be like your mother.” Of course, he left after 27 years (Yeah; slightly bitter even now). But you know what? I learned some amazing things from my mom. And I am still learning from her.
My mom has not kept up with technology, at all. She can no longer work a microwave, nor even make a pot of coffee in a drip coffee maker, let alone something like a Keurig machine. She does not understand how to change the channel, use a laptop, or what an essential oil diffuser is. One of the things I am learning from my mom is how to be content inside our own heads. Technology is everywhere in our lives, and my mom has learned to just ignore most of it. It has no place in her mind, because she truly did not use much of it. There will be the TV blaring, the teenager playing his music in his room (way too loud for me) while he is rushing around getting ready to leave, and I’ll be playing on my phone or reading on my laptop, and mom is quietly sitting, hands in her lap, content. She usually falls asleep. She sleeps a lot. In amongst the chaos that is a functioning family home. Last night, the dishwasher was going, my son and his girlfriend were at the dining room table gabbing, the winds were howling, the TV blaring, and I look over and mom is literally snoring. Calm in the chaos…stillness in the chaos….quiet in the chaos. We can all learn from that.
My mom taught me all the skills I needed to be a housewife. She taught me to iron when I was just in kindergarten. I used to stand on a stool to iron my dad’s undershirts, and pocket handkerchiefs. I couldn’t really hurt them! We used to iron our sheets and towels, shirts and pants. Pretty much everything. So I had lots of practice. Mom used to let me peel potatoes when I was in grade school. I have the scar on my index finger to this day. I learned how to brew the perfect cup of tea. And toast…I learned how to make proper, British toast.I learned how to make a wonderful pot roast. I learned how to scrub everything. I learned how to organize and be neat and to always put things away. Nowadays mom likes things put away, but she doesn’t care where they go, so long as she cannot see them. It makes for fun treasure hunts when we are looking for pillows or pajamas, shirts and sweaters. Her doctor told me to stop teaching. That everything my mom will know, she already knows. She cannot learn anything new. And to stop pointing out the mistakes, to just clean them up. And you know, I recall my mom just cleaning up my messes when I would knock over a glass of juice or milk or anything. She would not get mad. She would certainly make it clear she was not happy, but she would just clean it up. A good lesson for me, as a mom, and now, a caregiver.
One of the most memorable things my mom did was turn into this incredibly gentle and loving person, a true caregiver, whenever I was sick. As a 12-year-old, I fell very, very ill. I had a sinus infection that went into the fluid in my brain, and I ended up in the ICU. As the illness progressed, but before I was hospitalized, I remember my mom setting a fan up at the foot of my bed. bringing a bowl of water with floating ice cubes and a wet cloth to bath me in. Back in those days, we used to do more home care, without rushing to urgent care for the sniffles. My temperature was well over 102 degrees and my dad came to my room and told me to stop faking it, at one point. He accused me of wanting to get out of cleaning up the dog poop (which was my current daily chore – we had Great Danes, so it was sort of important) and pretending I was sick. I recall my mom standing up for me and telling him I was truly ill. After a couple of phone calls to the doctor, my mom drove me to the doctor. He immediately hospitalized me. My dad never left my side – I think he felt guilty for accusing me of faking an illness. Mom, well, mom stayed home to take care of my brother, and would come see me each evening. She would sit with me until I fell asleep, holding my hand.
Even to this day, I hate to throw up. I think it is the absolute worst thing ever. I will do whatever it takes to not throw up. In fact, my husband and I made a deal when we got married – he would clean all throw up from our kids and I would do any diaper or poopy mess they ever made. DEAL! My mom became the best mom ever when I would get sick as a kid. Her comfort during my stomach sicknesses has never left me. She would calmly talk to me, she would hold my hair and rub my back. She would put a cold cloth on my forehead, whispering that I would be fine soon. She was so gentle and loving and caring. Those moments have stayed with me, and seem like yesterday, even now.
There is a great book, at least to me, that people either love or hate. I love it. It is called, “Love you Forever” by Robert Munsch. I read it to my kids. The story is so beautiful, and is about the love of a mother for her son, and eventually, how the son returns the love and cares for his mother, then passes it on to his own daughter. “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” This is the recurring phrase throughout the book. The story is how much a mother loves her son, and through the stages of his growing up and away from home. There are various scenes of her holding and rocking him, singing the above phrase to him, even into adulthood. The story comes full circle, when the son rocks his mother as she is old and dying, and then finally holding and rocking his daughter, singing that same phrase. It is about unconditional love. And about the full circle of love a mother has for her children, passing it on to them, so they in turn can pass that love onto their children. And today, as I sat watching my mom drift in and out of sleep, I thought of this story. No, I am not like my mom in many ways. But in some of the most important ways, I am exactly like my mom. I love hard, I love deep, and I love forever. I am a cuddling, hugging, and kissing mom, friend and grandma. And I am a cuddling, rocking caregiver to my mom. And if that is what I get from my mom, I am a blessed woman. I only pray my sons will want to rock me one day, as I journey into the Arms of a Loving God, who will rock me on His lap forever.
Me and Mom in August 2017