Archive for Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Remembering mothers and their sacrifices

May 14, 2008

Sunday was Mothers Day. In restaurants throughout the city, you could see proud moms, often with flowers in the lapels or pinned to their breasts, having dinner with their families.

In my own family, we celebrated as well. The wife got cards and calls from the kids, and we went out to dinner.

The day got me to thinking about my own mother, who's been gone now for just a little more than 20 years.

Though she was blessed in many ways, my mother had a hard life. I'm sure there must have been times when it seemed like she couldn't bear to suffer any more.

As it did with most of the people who survived it, the Depression permanently altered her way of thinking. This manifested itself in a myriad of little habits and practices my brother and sisters and I used to find quaint. Until the day she died, for example, I don't think she ever opened a stick of margarine without painstakingly scraping off and husbanding the little bit of residue that clings to the wrapper. She kept this up long after there was any economic necessity for it, and we used to gently tease her about it.

Thinking back, I don't think we, who were blessed to grow up in a time of relative plenty, realized how deeply and permanently afflicted - scarred, even - were our mothers and all the other women who had gone through times when they were hungry and didn't know the source of their next meal.

My mother worshiped her father, and I don't think she ever recovered from the pain he caused her when he abandoned his family when she was about 16. Finding him became almost an obsession when she had the time and wherewithal to pursue it. After their retirement, many of the vacations she and my stepfather took were at least partly devoted to this vain quest. She found shirt-tail relations and old acquaintances all over the Midwest, with a few reports that someone thought he might have been in such and such a place at such and such a time, but never found him, and it grieved her to her dying day.

She married my father as World War II was about to envelope the United States. There are photographs of the three of us, some in a studio, some at a picnic or some sort of outdoor event with other family members, and everyone seems happy. But that happiness was to be short-lived. He answered the call of duty and died in North Africa in September 1943. We spent the war years with my father's family.

After the war, she remarried. In time I grew to accept, then to love, my stepfather, but Mom always tried to make sure that I knew my father; she often spoke of him in our quiet times together. After she remarried there were other children and we were all close but I always thought, because of the years when it was just the two of us, that we had something of a special relationship.

Despite the pain that life had visited on her, Mom was not a gloomy person. She was always glad to see us, always wanting the latest news about important events in our lives and, especially, about the growing brood of grandchildren.

There are, of course, thousands of quotes - even entire poems - about mothers. I'll close with this one, from Tenneva Jordan:

"A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie."


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