Sunday, May 11, 2008

Celebrating my Mom

Until the birth of my daughter, to say my relationship was bumpy was an understatement.  My father demanded that me & the boys speak to my Mom in a respectful tone. Whether it was done on a subconsciously or overtly, Dad undermined that respect at times with his behavior.

Their relationship as husband and wife is not for me to judge. Through their journey, they have managed to stay together for 49 years. But it did not operate in a vacuum and had an impact on my relationship with Mom.

My parents married the summer after my Mom graduated high school, a common practice in 1958. During my formative years Mom did not seem happy with any aspect of her life.

Dad's job at the steel mill served as the primary source of income. I remember as if it were yesterday, the day my mother asked for my father's permission to work as as a reading aide at the local elementary school. Talk about a defining moment in my life. I knew at that moment in time I would never be in a position to ask for permission to work or anything else that matter. I was annoyed by the whole exercise.

I guess my mother picked up on my rejection of her lifestyle and viewed it as a rejection of her.
As my graduation from college was looming, she and I had a pretty nasty fight. All of her hurt and anger was unleashed in a fury of harsh words. "You think you're smarter than me" she sobbed. "You always talk to your Dad" she continued. She even called me Miss High School. Ouch. I attempted to fight back. "You always sent me to Dad" so I just cut out a step. She was not having it. My parting shot was "I'm not sure why YOU hate ME, all I ever did was try to make you proud"..........

I left and returned to my dorm and did speak to her for a couple of days. I'm sure that didn't hurt. Ugh I cringe at the memory.

Blessedly, we were granted the time and exercised the sense to work through our views of each other.

She has been rock solid during ALL of the challenges I faced in my life even the self-inflicted ones. She taught me through her actions, how to be a cool Mom. For years I was ALWAYS late.
It was she who gently pointed out that it was the "one last thing" I was trying to get done which threw off my schedule.

She could give lectures at Wharton on organization and time management. It was she who got five people out of the house before 8 am with one bathroom. Dad was active in the community. It was Mom who kept him on task. Me and my brothers were involved in sports, the band, musicals, and community activities. To this day, I don't know how she kept it and us together. We were NEVER late.

Born in a different time, I wonder if her choices would have been different. Me and the boys were important to her and her legacy. She points to all of us with pride.

It breaks my heart to see her mind failing her. She gets frustrated and looks sad. Her role in the family has changed. We are finally looking after her.

I look at my Mom with pride and all my love.


Oregon Pundit said...


Thank you for this touching post.

I have always found family dynamics to be an interesting subject. It is common for members of the family unit to slip into respective roles, and never break out of those roles. Sometimes they can't break out, no matter how hard they try. More often, however, a family member simply gets comfortable with the role-playing because he or she is too scared to choose a new, more authentic role.

Your mother's role is to be a facilitator. She helps others before she helps herself. Not that there is anything wrong with unselfishness, but it makes you wonder what she could have done in different circumstances.

There is a generational sub-text to your post. Girls in the 1950s were still encouraged to pin their hopes on a good husband. By the time you graduated from high school, expectations for girls had changed radically. In 1985, when my daughter was 13, I gave her a stern lecture about pinning her hopes on a future husband. I said the divorce rate is close to 50 percent; she has a 50/50 chance of finding a stable marriage. More than anything, I wanted her to go on and get a college degree so she could be an independent woman. She is now 35, married to a good man, and has two beautiful kids. Still, she can support herself, if necessary.

Very few fathers were giving that lecture in 1958.

Happy Mother's Day to you and your family.

Sally Hemings in Paris said...

Oh my friend you are so correct. A different time. A different set of rules and expectations.

What is so ironic is that all of the women in my family worked outside of the home. My paternal grandmother cooked and cleaned homes. When money was tight she sold dinners out of her home. My maternal grandmother worked as a union rep in a sweatshop in the garment district in Philly. My maternal great-grandmother worked in a mushroom cannery.

They did not have careers, it was work. My mother had the luxury, I suppose, of not returning to the workplace until I was in the fourth grade.

What was not lost on me, were the roles these women embraced when they returned home. Everything inside the house was their responsibility. Outside the house were for the men folk.

My great grandmother threw a temper tantrum when she saw me under the car with the boys learning how to change the oil.

I celebrate the wise counsel you provided your daughter.

All the best to you and your family.

Trakker said...

What a wonderful tribute to your mother. It must be hard to see your mother age, and it must be frustrating to her as well. Best of luck to both of you.

Sally Hemings in Paris said...

Thanks. I am blessed to have her.