Sunday was Mother’s Day and I wonder if you took time to let your mother know how much you appreciate her?
My mother passed away in 1976 at the very young age of 57. Last May 1st was the first day I lived to be older than her. Since then, I’ve thought of my mother often.
The truth is, although she wasn’t what anyone could term affectionate, I miss her. I wish I had paid more attention as she spoke about our heritage, as she told me tales of her mother and father and growing up during the Great Depression and what it was like to be a young woman in love during World War II.
She met my father while she was a nurse in training, during the war. He was the sole support of his own mother, and he didn’t pass the medical for enlistment—although I have no idea why. He worked as an orderly at the hospital where she took that training. They married in secret on May 29th, before her graduation, as in those days only unmarried women could attend nursing school.
I wish I knew more of her and my father’s love story, and more details of their lives, their growing up years and just starting out years.
My father died 13 years before my mother. They’d barely had 20 years together, and after he passed, my mother rarely spoke of him. Neither did she ever even look at another man.
Because I was so young when my father died, my mother became the center of my young life. She once told me, years later, that one of the reasons she never considered dating or the possibility of marrying again was that she didn’t want to turn her life over to a man to run. She had become used to doing things herself and for herself. That statement had shocked me, because I never imagined she looked at marriage that way.
My mother cooked and sewed; she was a registered nurse, working full time; she could cut the grass, fix a toaster, and made wooden valances for over the windows in our living room.
I grew up believing that women could do whatever they set their minds to because of the example my mother set, and I understand now it was an example she set only because of the vagaries of fate.
My mother had a wry sense of humor, and a very agile mind. She didn’t often say a negative thing about a person. One time, when I heard her make such a comment about a woman who was the wife of my late father’s best friend, I chided her by saying, “everyone has a bad side.” My mother’s retort? “All the way around?”
My mother was a wise woman, one who had good people skills, and a good insight into human behavior. She also gave me the best advice I ever received when I was only 17 years old.
She came to my high school for a meeting with the guidance counsellor and my teachers. The reason was that my marks had suffered as a result of my having been off for a few weeks—I’d had a fractured ankle that had been surgically set with a pin, and the doctor felt I needed to stay home.
One of my teachers was a sarcastic fellow, one with whom I didn’t get along. After the meeting, when it was just me, my mom, and the counsellor, my mom sat quietly as she stared at the chair where this man had sat. Finally, she pointed to the chair and said, “The minute he opened his mouth, I knew he was an asshole.”
Strong language from mom, a woman who rarely swore. Then she said, “Unfortunately, Morgan, the world is full of assholes, and nine times out of ten when they come into your life, they are going to have some authority over you. So you need to learn how to deal with them.”
Wise words indeed, and advice that I have never forgotten, and ever found useful.