Recently, a friend lost their mother and I started thinking about mine. Mom died on August 9,2011. I think of her every day. I wish I could hold her hand just one more time.
There are no words one can say to comfort a person who has lost a mother. A piece of you is gone forever. Your mother has known you longer than anyone else in this world. She felt the first flutters of your life deep in her belly. She carried you when no one else could.
This is what I know about my mother. She was the oldest of 3 children raised by her mother. Her father died when he was a very young man from a heart condition. She grew up during the depression. At a very young age she worked with her beloved brother James. They mowed lawns for a quarter and shined shoes for a nickel. She wore James’ hand me down coveralls they were blue with white stripes. She loved to roller skate and was quite good. Since she was the oldest she had to work and help support the family. This instilled in her a strong work ethic that she in turn instilled in me.
When she was 17, she contracted tuberculosis from a beauty operator. She spent 2 years of her life locked away in a sanitorium away from her family. When she was well, she went back home and worked as a telephone operator. She met and married my father when she was 24. They got married in Galveston, Texas on October 31,1952 and I was born almost 2 years later on October 1,1954. I do not know where or how they met, which I am now wondering why I never asked her this question. She was always a very private person, so she didn’t share much, even with me. They divorced when I was 2.
When I was older, my mom told me if she wanted any money for child support after they divorced, she had to be quick. She stood at the gate of the City of Houston Water Department (where dad worked) on Friday afternoons. Went with him to cash his check. Otherwise,the money would all be gone by Saturday and he would be who knows where.
She later married my stepfather Wayne, and my half-sister, Sheila was born on March 27,1959. She divorced him and re-married him, and then divorced him again. My mother supported us by working as a waitress for many years. I started working when I was 12, helping her at catering parties. She was so proud of me even then.
A few years later, she took another chance on love and married again, a man named Denny. During this time, she had an operation to have 1 kidney removed due to a birth defect. Her health improved after this for a while and she was happy with him, but again it was not to be. She and Denny divorced in 1988, and my mother gave up on finding everlasting love. She worked at an Insurance company, USF&G for quite a few years. They offered the option to retire early when they were closing and she jumped at the chance. She moved her mobile home to her cousin’s 1000 acre ranch in Huntsville, Texas. She finally had an opportunity to do two of the things she loved most -gardening and fishing.
One of my fondest memories is of my mom and me fishing early one morning and she caught an 8 lb. big mouth bass! Her face lit up as she worked to get him reeled in to shore. She said that was the biggest fish she had ever caught. I am so glad to have been there. She loved living on the ranch with her cousin Betty, who had lost her husband. They were very close, and Betty tells me they never had a cross word.
My mom’s retirement didn’t last long as my sister had twins, a boy and a girl. My sister, a troubled soul had a hard time. Thus, it was not long before my mother became their guardian and caretaker. She raised Michael and Renee until they were 6 or 7, and then their father took them as my mother’s health was not the best. It was a difficult decision for her to make, but she knew it was the right one. She loved them as if they were her own. My sister had many issues throughout her short-lived life, and died in 2003 at the age of 44. At the same time, my mom became ill, and was unable to attend the funeral. I put my mom in the hospital and it was 3 weeks before they found out the problem. She had a hernia and they operated.
When I asked mom how she got a hernia, she said 2 words, “Lifting rocks.” Independent, even at the end. Once she became well enough to travel, she came to live with Pete and I in Arizona. Determined, I wanted the rest of my mother’s life to be one of little worry, and plenty of happiness. She had been through so much, and deserved so much more than she ever got.
She loved her children and her grandchildren, but was not overly affectionate. This changed in later years. I like to think living with us had something to do with her being more open and loving.
Every time I left to go on a business trip, she never failed to tell me how much she loved me. We had her here for the last 8 years of her life and it was a blessing. I had the chance to give back to her a part of what she gave me.
My husband Pete got to know and love the remarkable woman who was my mother. She loved him so very much. He restored her faith in men. We all grew from the experience of living together and expanding our views of the world and life.
Not long after mom moved in we lost our refrigerator and got an ICEBOX. She’d walk by Pete in the living room and he’d ask, “Where you going Mom?”
She would say “I’m fixin’ to go to the icebox and make myself a pimento cheese sandwich. You want one?”
(For those of you from the north, Texans don’t like to commit to anything just yet, so we say fixin’ to. It’s our polite way of saying – I’ll do it in my own damn good time).
So back to the pimento cheese. Have you ever heard of pimento cheese? Pete sure hadn’t, but mom and I loved it.
If we went away for the weekend mom always asked Pete for his gun to protect herself. She wasn’t the least bit afraid to use it because above all, she was a TEXAN first and a woman second.
We obliged her but then we thought it was best if she called 911 instead of blowing our heads off if we came home early.
Every afternoon when Pete or I came home from work we would hear gunshots coming from her room. That along with the theme songs from Bonanza, The Rifleman, Gunsmoke, or the Virginian. She loved those old westerns, and loved those handsome cowboys!
We can’t watch a western now without thinking of Mom. And I know she won Pete over with the pimento cheese – he actually thinks it’s pretty good stuff.
We love you mom now and forever. You’ve ridden off into the sunset with your cowboys now, having a good ole time. Telling’ stories about your life to the cowboys around the campfire.
If they make pimento cheese sandwiches in heaven, mom’s gettin’ her fill.
Save a place by the campfire for us. Happy Trails.
“A daughter without her mother is a woman broken. It is a loss that turns to arthritis and settles deep into her bones. ” ― Kristin Hannah, Summer Island