Today is my mom’s birthday. How old would she have been? Well, let’s see, she turned four years old on the day that the Japanese launched a devastating attack on Pearl Harbor launching our country into World War 2. That year was 1941, so Mom was born in 1937. She’d have been 77 today. Sadly, Mom passed away in her mid-50’s, a victim of cancer.
I miss her every single day. I’ll never forget when it hit me that Mom was gone. Many days after her funeral, Studly, the kids, and I were back in Kansas, and one of my students said something funny to me in class. When I got home that afternoon I picked up the phone to call Mom. I even started dialing her number before I realized that I’d never be able to do that again. That’s when I cried until I thought my head would implode.
Now Mom and I were often at odds. As much as we look alike we had very different approaches to life. Mom was a perfectionist, and she never quite understood my haphazard ways. She had the subtlety of a sledge hammer, so even when she thought she was correcting me in gentle ways her message came through like a bullhorn in a closet. But, and every mother and daughter will understand this: Mom was my best friend.
My fondest memories of my mother:
Anytime I was sick my Mom was the very best nurse–she should have been one, but circumstances prevented that from happening. Instead, she worked for doctors for most of her life. There was nothing quite as comforting as having Mom lovingly placing cool cloths on my forehead when I had a fever or cradling me when I had a bad cold. Honestly, sometimes I played sick just to get the attention.
One Christmas, I think I was 7, my California cousins came for a visit. My cousin Gail was a year older, and we were great friends. On Christmas Eve we were excitedly discussing our presents while snuggled into the twin beds in my room. I said I couldn’t wait to see what Santa would bring. Gail told me, in no uncertain terms that there was no Santa, and that parents who told their kids there was a Santa were liars.
My sobs brought Mom in from the living room where the grownups were enjoying an adult beverage or two. I told her what Gail had said, and Mom told me the truth–that parents did provide the gifts from Santa, but that Santa, would always be in our hearts as long as people did good things for one another. I could live with that, and I still believe it was the best Santa explanation ever given.
One of the very best times I had with Mom was the December we camped out all night at a local retailer in order to secure a Cabbage Patch doll for my daughter. I’d gotten a tip from a co-worker that a store in Amarillo was getting in a shipment of 100 of those much coveted dolls. Casually I mentioned to Mom that I was thinking about getting up extra early to try and get a doll. She immediately went into action and said she’d go with me. She packed a bag like we were going into battle: Thermos full of coffee? Check! Two warm blankets? Check! Cushioned seats? Check! Reading material? Check! Extra heavy gloves? Check! Snacks? Check!
We arrived at the store at midnight thinking that we’d be able to sit in the car for a couple of hours, but there were already 20 or so people in line. As we watched, a few more joined the queue, so we quickly grabbed our supplies and staked out our spot. I can’t remember everything we discussed that night, but we talked non-stop. I’m pretty sure most of the world’s problems were solved. Thanks to my mom, we never got cold or hungry, and we each ended up with a doll–one for my Ashley and one for a friend’s daughter.
I’d love to have that impromptu camp out one more time. I’d make sure Mom knew just how much she meant to me, and how much I loved her.
Peace, People. Please let your family members know how much they mean to you. Right now.
Below: Mom and Dad circa 1957.
My daughter Ashley, Cricket the doll, closed-eyes me, and Mom.
Mom with her family, from left, her brother Jackie, my Grandaddy Carl, Mom, and my Nanny Grace holding my Aunt Nedra.