Sunday we celebrated our grandson’s 16th birthday as well as Mothers Day. The birthday boy and his sister, children of our oldest child and her husband, our son and ourselves met at a local park and had a picnic. We laughed, ate really good food, and hugged each other often as it was the first time in over a year all 7 of us were together.
My mother, Janet Alice, knew both our grandchildren before she died. I remember my Mom’s delight at our grandson’s first birthday party. Born on May Day, his birthday party was an outdoor potluck. Our granddaughter was born four years later on Valentines Day … 6 months before Mom passed. Our daughter made sure to visit Mom at Hospice with the new baby girl well before my Mom’s final days.
My mother taught me many things.
- She helped me learn how to read.
Picture this: She was tired. It was evening, after preparing a big dinner and after doing dishes by hand. Perhaps it was 8 pm. Mother and I sat on the floor of the dining room, to be near the heat register. The book was the traditional “See Dick Run, See Jane Run.”
- She taught me how to sew. Mom was a skilled seamstress.
Famously, she sewed the black wool cape I wore to a Big Ten University Homecoming Dance with my husband to be, in 1967. The dress was red velvet, enticing to the eye and soft to touch.
Twenty years later our daughter was invited to her first prom. The prom dress needed alteration. By this time my sewing skills were rusty so we enlisted the help of a tailor. When our daughter donned the prom dress and the black cape, the tailor marveled at the quality of the cape my mother had sewn.
- She instilled in me a desire to have beautiful handwriting. Every time she signed her name, she wrote carefully, be it a check, a greeting card, or a gift tag.
… And she had a long career as a bank teller.
When senior citizens needed to cash or deposit their Social Security check, they lined up deep at my mothers window. My Mom would serve all patiently and carefully, so they could visit briefly with her and she with them. She was astute. Mom recognized an older woman customer was about to be cheated out of a large amount of money. She alerted the supervisors of the bank who advised the elder customer appropriately. The woman’s money was not stolen.
My Dad had major depression. He could be very verbally abusive. He belittled my mother frequently, in front of all the children. I never heard or saw her defend herself. To this day, I remember vividly watching her cry in silence while sewing.
Dad attempted suicide four times: in the mid-1950, 1968, 1972 and 1979. Perhaps there were more than four times. I will never know. I never asked.
Neither did I ask her how she got through all this.
After my Dad passed in 1996, Mom began a new life for herself. She painted. She learned how to write stories describing and illustrating her past and current life. Mom began to decorate the Christmas tree the way she preferred. In fact, she invited her grandchildren to help her assemble and decorate the tree. She was talented with houseplants and arranging home decor. Mom also worked out at Curves several times a week. She became more physically fit while chatting with the younger women trainers. She had more fun.
It is extremely challenging to be a relative to someone with a serious mental illness. Did her parents advise her to divorce my Dad? – They did not approve of my Dad or my Dad’s parents. What unwanted remarks did her siblings make? Did she think of divorcing my Dad?
My Mom remained married to my Dad to keep our family intact, even though she lost some love for him. I know this was so as she told me.
I believe for her, staying married was the right thing to do.
Thank you, Mom.