Sunday, September 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom

"Photographs and memories
Christmas cards you sent to me
All that I have are these
To remember you"
Photographs And Memories - Jim Croce

A significant date for me which has passed my attention the past few years is coming around and I want to be sure I commemorate it. This week, my mom would have turned 81. Even more significant is that this year marked fifteen years since her passing. I have to admit that I don't think about her every day as some do of their dear departed ones, but I tend to feel and recognize her absence. I realize that the sum of my experiences with her colors my life so her imprint is always there in the back of my consiousness. Like with many, certain things I experience trigger in my mind memories of her. In the spirit of her memory and birthday, I'm taking time to list a few.

I would guess every child remembers some dish that mom used to make. I'm sure that there are many that I could list, but one sticks out: cream puffs. It's not that my mom made some award winning dessert, but they were usually made when a family occasion was at hand. Perhaps it was a Easter picnic, or the raucous New Year Day family get together with wall to wall football, or the Thanksgivings at my aunt's house. I can still taste those cream puffs. The funny thing is that I'm not a huge fan of cream puffs, but the smell and taste can be a strong reminder of family get togethers and good times. Within that context, her family get together contribution (beyond the laughs) was a creamy filled dessert topped with powdered sugar.

My mom had a great sense of humor. It had a bit of an edge to it as she was a very feisty lady who let you know exactly where she was coming from. A huge influence on her humor was the great comedienne Lucille Ball. Perhaps the greatest TV show and probably the most influential is "I Love Lucy". In the show Lucy was always getting herself in trouble with her screwy schemes. From that, her crazy sense of humor and brilliant sense of timing took over. My mom had a similar sense to seeing life. She could roll her eyes a certain way or was able to laugh at her own self such that you could always feel the lightness of the moment. It's a unique talent and a sign of a sharp wit. So yes, I can still watch those old Lucy reruns and laugh out loud. Beyond the usual memories attached to the show, I see a bit of my mom in it - and smile deeply inside.

"I go back to where this started to find out what went wrong,
 No miracle cures for the broken heart and only time and shoulders to lean on..."
Rescue Me - Bob Hudson
In late 1995 my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It's so hard to think that what started was her joking about indigestion ended up being a disease that was killing her. I hurt also because at first her pain caused her to be easily irritable and some of what was special of her was lost in the daily struggle. Even deeper is watching someone you love suffer. I can remember our whole family waiting in the hospital and the doctor coming out to give us the dire diagnosis. I know that I went numb and desperately needed time to process the news by myself. I also remember many drives after work to go home to see my mom. She had so many ups and downs during this time. It was truly an ordeal. The picture above was taken right before I escorted (actually pushed her in her wheel chair) to her seat at my brother's wedding. I still remember the faces of her sisters and relatives - sadness, tears and love. There was so much emotion as she entered the auditorium. Several of her friends and loved ones even broke tradition and got up out of their seats walked through the center aisle to hug her and affirm her. I think many knew that this would be the last time they saw her.
I remember the last words she said to me: "You such a good boy. What a good boy." It was warm and loving and tinged with sadness. I know that she wanted to tell me something important and those words stay with me. When God graciously called her home it was in the house we grew up at. The whole family was there and we cried together. I wish that I could say that all memories are happy ones. Even so, this one is a good memory since they are part of the process of life.

"But inspite of all I have I can still turn and smile,
 When I reach the promised land I'll be stronger for my trial..."
Rescue Me - Bob Hudson
All of these pictures are missing someone important. We are so happy in these times, but my mom wasn't there to share them. I think of the four grandchildren she didn't get to meet on earth. I think of her missing Ariel and Amanda's graduations; Ariel's wedding; seeing our KOA campground; and watching Fox play basketball (I'm sure she'd be the loudest one in the stands). I remember Ariel as a little girl mourning her passing by saying that she's so sad, she wished never had gotten to know her since it hurts so much that she's gone. On the other hand, I also think about how our family has become a little more expressive in our love for each other since then. I can see that my dad is a stand up man who dilligently took care of his ailing wife for two long years. I can also see that our lives are richer and that some little things that my brothers and I do impart to our kids some of what my mom gave to us. This is the stuff that helps me make some sense of God taking her away from us so early. It reminds me to cherish my family more. It helps me know that life and time are fragile and limited. It also gives me a hope for the eternal future when I can see my mom again and she'll hopefully get to intereact with all of her grandchildren. When we are in the Father's house we can all enjoy cream puffs - and laugh!


  1. Now that I am an adult I want to amend my childhood statement. I have no regrets from knowing her and treasure the few memories I have of her...swapping shoes with her when I was 5-6 because we were the same size : ), etc. She was such a sweet person and it means so much to me to feel that she accepted me as her granddaughter. I can now morn the memories of her time in the hospital, her passing and all the life events she has missed since she has been gone. I am so glad to have known her. : )

  2. Ariel,
    I fully understand your perspective as a little girl and as a young woman. As a child, you were honestly expressing pain in a very good way. Today, with time and healing you can express the memory of grandma without the deep pain. Both are very much valid and show a sign of someone who has been able to properly process through some of life's most difficult moments.
    I'm proud of you!