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EndNotes

Posts tagged: mother's day

Motherless Mother’s Day

While we celebrate our motherhood or spend time with our own mom, we can easily overlook the anguishing silence in others’ lives. I am reminded of friends whose mothers are gone:  this day stirs memories of joy and loss, of grief and new traditions.

Hope Edelman wrote “Motherless Daughters,” a response to her own mom’s death from breast cancer. Hope was 17 years old. Her mom, 42.

For those children – no matter their age - whose moms are absent today, we can acknowledge the woman gone, speak her name, tell stories about her life, and offer space in our hearts for her children.

Today, I remember Mary Jane, a woman who adored her children,  a woman of grace, brains, beauty and outrageous humor.  She shared these gifts with those who loved her. Years after her death, Mary Jane's greatest gifts remain: Annie, Laura and Jeff. XO

(S-R archive photo)

Best ever Mom’s Day words

Anna Quindlen wrote the following column years ago about motherhood describing wistful moments and time's message of live now- these babies grow up. As parents we think we mold and shape our kids, and we do - a bit.  Mostly, our children teach us about ourselves as they become who God intended: gifts for the world. After 20 years of motherhood, I remain profoundly grateful for each day I share with a remarkable human being - who happens to be my son.

On Being A Mom

By Anna Quindlen

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves.

Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with “Goodnight Moon” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories.

What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations —what they taught me was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One boy is toilet trained at 3, his brother at 2. When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow.

I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month-old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the Remember-When-Mom-Did Hall of Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language - mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, What did you get wrong? (She insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity.

That's what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.

(S-R archive photo: Joyce Barton, left, with her first grandchild, 1-year-old Lucia Barton in 2011)

 

Motherhood …a journey of grace

Mother’s Day. I tolerated it during those years when I longed for a child who could not be born. A child who could not be born from me.

And then…he arrived. A child through adoption, the miraculous process of child matched with parents. The ultimate blind date.

Alex is 18-years-old now. I still marvel at our coming together: different continents, same blood type. He looks like my husband, he acts like me. But his talents are uniquely his own. His creative mind, his generous spirit, his refusal to hurry through life, he is a wondrous soul who knows himself and acts accordingly – no matter how much I try to take him off course. I wish I had possessed half his self-confidence when I was twice his age.

I am grateful for the moments: when he was 3-years-old, he put his chubby little hands on my face and proclaimed, “I want to mah-wee you, Mommy!”  I watched one morning as he closed his eyes tightly and jumped on top of a book. When I asked, in that staccato, parent voice,”What..ARE..you..doing?!” He said, “I want to get in that story!” That year he also announced at breakfast he had been gone in the night, “The Moon Horse came and got me and took me for an adventure, Mommy. So, when I’m gone from my bed, don’t worry. I am with the Moon Horse.”  

At 7-years-old, he decided he loved “putting on shows” and stepped onto a stage, memorizing lines, performing with ease before 200 people. Tonight he performs in Footloose at a local theater. 

When my cancer came, he stayed close and made huge bowls of mashed potatoes because I said that was the only food that tasted good when I was in the hospital. Eight months later, we excused him from school for two weeks and traveled to Italy.  We walked off the grief from my illness - 81 miles over Italian streets. Alex is a perfect traveling companion: curious about everything and undaunted when plans go awry. He loved the “dead guy in a glass box” at St. Peter’s in Rome. He walked through Assisi, chattering on and on about St. Francis, who “talked” with animals.  We stood still in Piazza della Signoria catching snowflakes on our tongues while pigeons strutted around our feet. He hauled his suitcase on and off trains and over cobblestones through Bologna, Florence, Rome, Pescara, Perugia.  

While I have hauled him across this continent as well as  across the Atlantic Ocean, he has taken me on this wonderful journey of motherhood, a journey made up of wonderful moments.

And that is my daily prayer: give me grace to pay attention, to the moments, to the joy, to the gift who is our child.

We waited so long for him to arrive, but our journey, like those Italian trains, moved fast. Someday soon the Moon Horse will call him and he will follow, jumping into his own story. I’ll try not to worry. As he travels into young adulthood, I hope we have not left him with too much childhood baggage to haul into his future.

Thank you, Alex, for the privilege of sharing our lives, for teaching us more than we could possibly teach you. No matter how old you are or where your dreams take you, know that our love travels with you, always…through eternity into forever. Xoxoxo ~ Mom

(Photo of Cathy and Alex, Piazza della Signoria, Florence, 2005)

She wore the dress just twice

One of my favorite spirituality writers is Ron Rolheiser and his Mother's Day column today was beautiful. He explained how his mother died too young, leaving a big brood of children that “felt too young to be on its own.”

Here's the graph that sticks with me this Mother's Day evening:

“She died of pancreatitis and a broken heart, just three months after she had nursed my dad through a year-long, losing, battle with cancer. As my dad lay dying, one of my brothers and I took her to a shop to buy a dress for the funeral. She splurged and bought the most expensive dress she'd ever purchased. When she tried on the dress the sales clerk told her: “You look terrific in that dress! I hope you enjoy wearing it!” She wore it just twice, once to her husband's funeral and once to her own. The irony of the salesclerk's comment hasn't been lost.”

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

Ask a question: Catherine welcomes questions about aging issues and grief. Email her at endnotescolumn@gmail.com.

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