Mother’s Day is a bittersweet day for me. My mother passed away when I was seven months pregnant with my fourth child. Her death was unexpected and a shock to the entire family. As with most moms, she was the center of the family and our rock.
Moms are not merely responsible for raising children, but for keeping families glued together once children become adults. Gathering together for the holidays meant focusing on her famous turkey dressing that thankfully she taught me how to cook a few years before her death. I use the exact paper I had written her recipe down with as she cooked the meal in my own kitchen. Today, that paper is grease stained and the ink is a bit iffy, but I drag it out of my stack of recipes every Thanksgiving to once again follow those sacred instructions to a T. It’s delicious and my kids would melt down if I changed one ingredient.
While she had many faults, her strengths were enormous. We could share our problems and concerns with her while she patiently listened, never interrupting until we finished talking. But once your tale of woe was complete, her opinion on the situation would flow and if she thought you were in the wrong, you better hang onto your hat as she flawlessly dissected the issue at hand. However, if whatever situation you brought to her had merit, she always had a plan of action that was perfect. Her advice seldom failed.
Raised on a farm in the panhandle of Oklahoma in the tiny town of Guymon, she had hilarious stories to share of life on the farm. She only told the funny ones and seldom shared sad stories. Her dad taught her to cook as my grandmother was great at making sweets, but rather bored by actually cooking food. She often told of learning to make gravy standing on a stool when she was around the age of three. Her gravy was to die for and something I’ve never mastered. She left Guymon once she graduated from high school and moved to Houston, Texas where she met my dad. They had an equal partner relationship. She demanded, and received, respect in all matters.
Having served in the Army during World War II, she had a vast amount of experience with numerous types of personalities and situations. She had a business head and an uncanny ability to see the heart of an issue rather than the emotional clutter surrounding it. One of my favorite memories was at the age of about 12, I announced to my parents I wanted to be a nun. My dad’s face turned white and he groaned as he put his head in his hands. Mother, however, took the statement at face value and began kindly asking questions about my chosen vocation. As I answered each question honestly, she nodded and patiently asked another. Once her questions were complete, she looked at me and said, “You want to be a nun in a movie.” I stared at her in shock! She was absolutely correct. I had recently watched the Singing Nun starring Debbie Reynolds on TV and was captivated. Those majestic habits the nuns wore! The songs! The atmosphere of the movie had certainly captured my 12 year-old heart. But her patient, loving investigation of my motives was clear headed rather than an emotional response. I’ve used the exact same comment to my own children when they’ve brought me unrealistic career choices.
She taught me many things but remaining cool and collect during situations with kids was one that has served me well.
She and my dad both had great senses of humor. I remember them laughing at situations that would have made others lose their tempers. A tent falling on top of us while camping; Dad getting lost while driving and many other occasions. They would laugh until tears were streaming down their faces. Their outlook on life had an enormous effect on me. Mother called it ‘taking life as it comes’. Was she a hundred percent perfect? Absolutely not! But she taught me so much.
I still miss her today and there have been quite a few occasions where I needed her advice, but she left this earth too soon. She’s alive in my heart and I think of her every single day.