Sunday, May 11, 2008


My friend Thom wrote a moving post for Mother's Day. As one of the folks who is acutely aware of the absence of his own mother, he wrote:

I truly wish you and your mother a wonderful day. Honor her, cherish her, and
let her know how much you love her. Whatever your relationship, she is the only
mother you will ever have, so get past the family crap and be good to her.

So I'd like to honor my mother here. My mother is 89 years old. As part of the "greatest generation," she grew up during the Great Depression and launched her adulthood during World War II. As I grow older, I am able to understand the tremendous force these events had on her life and her world view. Her mother was virtually a single parent, since my grandfather was a shell-shocked veteran of WWI, who spent most of his post-war life in a veteran's hospital psych ward. My grandmother supported the family by working as a teacher in a 2 room country school. When she began teaching, she didn't even have a high school diploma, but eventually she got her equivalency certificate, and went on to earn both a bachelor's and master's degree, while working full-time as a teacher. And I mean working full-time...she drove the country roads well before dawn, arriving early at the school to build a fire in the wood stove. She distributed food and clothing during the Great Depression and even gave the kids haircuts. With such a burden on her, she sent my mother to a boarding school as a "working student" in her teen years. I'm sure that had a great affect on my mother's personality. To this day, she is a very serious minded person. I sometimes wish she would "lighten up," but I well understand the source of her serious nature.

She and my father married in 1937 and had their first child in 1941, just before my father left for service in the Navy in WWII. So my mother was on her own with a young child for several years. After the war, she gladly settled into the traditional role of stay-at-home mom. I think she must have felt it was both a great luxury and a great responsibility to be able to do this, after her childhood experiences.

I won't get into the feminist politics...I just know that I benefitted from having her so involved in my life when I was a child. She sewed my clothes, led my Brownie troop, was my classroom room mother, etc. She was there when I got home from school every day.

So now she is on her own, after my dad died a year and a half ago. It's difficult, as she has lost her most of her eyesight in recent years, a situation which has caused her great frustration. While she still has most of her faculties, I see her slipping at times. It seems that her world is shrinking all the time. I often miss the parent I used to know. But I remind myself that I'm lucky to have her here still and that it is an honor to be able to pay her back in some small measure for all she did for me.

(By the way, in the photo above, my mother is the one on the left, with my grandmother in the middle and my aunt on the right.)


Thom said...

You honor your mother well. I know how difficult it is to see a parent slip away, but it is during that time their need is the greatest. Whether she is able to acknowledge it or not, your mother should be very proud of the daughter who learned the lessons of two generations very well.

Happy Mother's Day, Galen!

Joy said...

Thank you for sharing about your Mother. Such a loving tribute.