My mom is beautiful. She just turned ninety-three-years old. I don’t know if she ever really yearned to be a mother—especially of five children. I’ve not asked her that question. Or was it the only alternative to a woman of her generation, married young with an eight-grade education? Her own mother died when she was just two-years-old. Mom lived her life without a mother. She was “farmed” out to other homes after her mom’s death, until she reached the age that her dad wanted her back at his farm to live with him and her elder brother. Being their servant or slave is how she describes those years. Mom’s two older sisters left the farm as soon as they were able. The eldest sister married and had five children before she met her death of the same disease that killed their mother—breast cancer. The other sister left for the three-hour-away big city to study and practice nursing before becoming the second wife and mother to her sister’s family. She, too, died of breast cancer.
Mom escaped. She escaped the death-dealing disease and she escaped her servanthood, marrying Dad at age eighteen and moving with him to the three-hour-away big city where her sister had fled to.
”That marriage won’t last a week,” her dad predicted. Five children and years of marriage later, Mom remains, outliving her husband of almost sixty-five years, and a full life of home-making, scrabbling together sales and house-cleaning jobs, keeping herself and her family together and cared for – deeply.
Mom was always working. The big, green house that we moved into when I was four-years-old felt completely empty the days when we returned from school and she wasn’t there. She gave spirit and life to that house and to each one of her children. Mom was my Calvinette Counselor (the Christian Reformed Church’s version of Girl Scouts) for many years. Mom was the first person I called when I found out that I was going to be a mom. She is the one person who visited me and my newborn baby daughter in the hospital before Tim and I took our baby home only to return to a second hospital when baby had a cardiac arrest two days later. Mom and Dad met Tim and I at that second hospital too, to cry and pray with us until we could see our baby again.
Mom is now grandmother and great-grandmother, continuing to give spirit and life, love, and support to these new generations.
”Does your mom’s legacy make it hard to live up to”, a new acquaintance asked me after I told her we were traveling to celebrate Mom’s ninety-third birthday and I briefly described her life.
“No,” I responded. “Not really.” “She has always loved and supported me,” I said, thinking to myself that I’ve never considered “living up to,” Mom’s legacy.
“I love you, Mom,” I tell her when we end a phone call or a visit.
“I love you and all of you kids,” is her response, “Always.”