Saturday, May 8, 2010

Finally Facing Mother's Day With Gratitude

May is a busy month for me. I traveled to a writers' retreat in Texas, will appear at Flyleaf Bookstore in Chapel Hill for Children's Book Week, will read at the NYC Public Library and appear at two bookstores there during BookExpo America, and I learned that Island Sting will be featured at Bookmarks Festival in Winston-Salem, NC. All exciting stuff that I intended to prattle on about, in addition to sharing spring gardening adventures.

That plan changed when my brother phoned. He has been writing little memoir chapters for his children and grandchildren, and this month he honored our mother with his words. This year marks 50 years of our being motherless. Since 1960 I have found Mothers' Day to be the most difficult day of the year. But for some reason, my brother's words have started to ease my pain. I've always been grateful for the near perfect childhood Mother gave us, but it's also been a battle to believe the mantra I've chanted for fifty years, "Mom accomplished 90 years of work in a short 45 years. It was time for her to rest with God."

Here are the healing words of my brother, Frederick E. Miller. A short addendum of my memories follows.

May 7, 2010
As Mother’s Day approaches, I have been thinking about Mom. As I look back, I really appreciate all the things that she accomplished in her “too short” life. I don’t know how she managed to accomplish all that she did.

She cared for me while Dad was re-drafted into WW II. After the war, we moved into the same home with her parents. She help Dad start his plumbing & heating business in 1948, while she was pregnant & gave life to Bonnie. She managed the phone, was the accountant, purchasing agent, payroll clerk & many other things for the business.

At the same time, she did all the duties of a mother, wife & housewife. Washing was done with an old ringer style machine, & clothes hung out on lines. Most clothes had to be ironed.

Grandma & Granddad were also employed full time. We had a large vegetable garden which needed lots of attention. Mom & Grandma picked, cleaned, & canned for hours at a time. The shelves of the cold cellar were filled with jars of food.

As time passed, the garden shrank, a freezer was bought, an automatic washer, dryer, & a cylinder type ironing machine appeared. Some clothes were still hung out, there was still a garden, and canning & freezing were still done. On holidays hours, if not days, were spent preparing feasts.

Mom & Dad did a good job of raising us. We were taught respect, values & faith. Were shown love & responsibility. We did things together as a family. We traveled & saw many places together.

She nursed me through a long recovery from polio, & what now seems to have been more than an average amount of childhood injuries.

When Dad had spinal surgery & was in a cast from his armpits to his thighs for months, she continued with all the usual business & home duties. He was unable to bend his spine so he either had to stand, or lay flat. She had to take him everywhere, including to job sites. The business was sold because Dad could no longer do the heavy work.

She eventually started a job as an assistant at the special education school and took in ironing work for extra income. My opinion has always been that she did it because of the significant drop in income after business was sold. This was at the same time I was starting college.

During all this time, Mom continued to participate in church & community activities several evenings every week. She had a selfless attitude in which she felt that we all had a responsibility to help others.

She was human. She could lose her temper (often justified by us family members). I can’t believe that she didn’t lose her patience more frequently with all she did.

The week before Thanksgiving of November of 1960 she was walking up the back yard, coming home from work. She suffered a serious stroke. She never made it home. She’d been exhausted for weeks with unexplained bruise-like discolorations appearing on her body. In hospital she was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a low platelet count of no known cause. She suffered more strokes & passed away on Sunday after Thanksgiving.

I was an 18 year old sophomore in college. Bonnie was 12. Mom was 45.
She lived far too short a life.

Even though she enjoyed life, I can’t help but think that she worked way too hard.
Love you Mom!

I remember all the beautiful clothes Mom made. One time she made burgundy corduroy suits for the whole family. We wore them to a state fair, and they were displayed in a local store window. She must have stayed up very late at night to sew. She had no other time.

She could dress like a fashion queen or a tomboy. She often wore a baseball cap, unusual for her time. And how she loved to drive and fuss at other drivers for their incompetence! Never curse, just tell them off with feeling! She was bold and independent.

I love you too, Mom. And I honor you this Mother's Day with more gratitude than pain, finally.