Archive for 2014

When You’re Missing Your Mom

Her name was Esther Arlene but everyone in her family called her Sister; even my grandparents called her Sister. Her nieces and nephews called her “Aunt Sister.”

I called her Mom, not Mommy, or Mama and certainly not Mother. She was just Mom. My mom.

She’s not here anymore but she’s everywhere; I see her, smell her, and hear her everywhere I go. Mom influenced me more than anyone or anything.

She wasn’t perfect, though.

It’s almost Mother’s Day and I just said my Mom wasn’t perfect. Shame on me. Bad girl. Go to your room, Sue.

Sigh. I got sent to my room a lot. So. Not. Fair.

I didn’t know it then but Mom had a lot of ‘not fair’ to deal with in her life.   

It’s a pivotal moment in life when you realize that your Mom isn’t perfect. When you grasp that underneath it all she is struggling with disappointment. Just like you.

I’m a lot like her. Not perfect. My problem is that I want people to think I’m perfect. And I want them to be perfect, too. It’s a perfect storm.

I miss talking to her about this kind of stuff. Miss her laugh and how she could make me laugh, even on my worst days; I’d call her up to complain about something and in a matter of minutes, we’d both be laughing hysterically. I rang up some hefty long distance telephone bills, complaining and laughing with my Mom. It was worth every penny.

And I learned hospitality from her, though we never called it that, never thought about it at all, really, it was just the way we lived. I think Mom was the one who invented the concept of having an open door.

When my brother was in high school, his friends used to come to our house for lunch, even though they didn’t share the same lunch period as my brother. Mom worked, but left the door unlocked and the fridge was always stocked with cold cuts, pickles and cheese for sandwiches. I can’t even fathom how she afforded to feed extra teenaged boys on my dad’s schoolteacher salary.

We frequently had last minute guests for dinner. I remember begging her to let my friend stay to eat supper with us. “Please Mom, pleeease?!” Of course, I asked her right in front of said friend, so she always said yes and somehow managed to stretch the food to feed one more hungry kid. My friends loved her.

It occurs to me as I write this that maybe she was hungry, too; hungry to recreate her childhood experience at the table. She was one of eight children, so dinnertime was quite a gathering, and there was always room for one more.

Mom was a good cook, but it wasn’t until I had a family of my own to feed that I realized she didn’t actually like to cook; more than that, she resented it. Being the first girl in a family of ten, (hence, the nickname “Sister”) she started cooking as soon as she could reach the stove. But what she really wanted was to be out working in the fields with her Daddy and her brothers.

She outlived all but one of her brothers and that about killed her. Really, she was never the same after they passed and it was their names she called out in her final hours.

One time when I was a young mother she told me that when you became a mother you would always be thinking about your children; even when they were grown up there would never, ever be a single moment that they weren’t in the back of your mind.

But she never told me the other part; that no matter how old you get, and how long its been since your mom passed away, there would never, ever be a moment that somewhere in the recesses of your mind, you weren’t thinking of her.

And missing her.

I miss you, Mom. 






The Importance of How You Say Goodbye

Hospitality isn’t just about the welcoming. Sometimes it’s about how you say goodbye…

There’s this routine my granddaughter and I share. Hard to believe she’s nearly sixteen now, but we still come up with these things, just like when she was little. She lives just around the corner from me and likes to come over in the evening to do her homework and watch her favorite TV show. The special thing we do happens when she heads out the door to walk home.  

It’s pretty safe here in our neighborhood and she’s old enough to walk home alone but part of the routine is that I stand on the sidewalk and watch until she turns the corner. Her part is to turn around every so often to see if I’m still watching. One last glimpse and with a wave, she’s gone. 

But wait! Don’t rush back into the house because all the sudden there she is again — looking to see if I’m still looking. And there I am waiting for that one last wave, that heart-stopping smile, the final goodbye.

As a grandmother, it’s delicious. 

But she has a little sister. She’s 7. She likes to come visit too, but she’s not allowed to stay as late as her big sister. Her curfew is before dark and she just recently has been given the ok to walk home alone. It’s a pretty big deal.

So the other night, she hugged me (20 second hug – that’s my rule) and went skipping off down the sidewalk. I waited and watched.

Sure enough, she turned around to see if I was watching. A wave, more skipping, and then a fast walk with that unbelievable little girl wiggle she has. A look back – yep, grandma’s still watching.

Now she’s nearly at the corner; she turns, waves and speeds up to a run for the final few steps towards home. She’s out of sight. 

I linger. Wondering. Thinking of the routine her big sister and I share.

And it happens! Her precious little head pops back around the corner, checking to see if Grandma is still watching.

Yes, sweetheart, Grandma is here.

Watching and waiting. And loving. And praying.

That’s what Grandma’s do.