I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Everyone has (or had) one

My family several decades ago
A mother, that is. Everyone started out with one, even if they no longer grace the planet with their presence. This was my family. Everyone in the picture is related to me, although the two men in the back row are related by marriage. That's me in the back row, too, with the pointy chin. Perms must have been in style, since I have one, along with Markee (in front of me) and Norma Jean in the front row with hair darker than I ever remember seeing it. Fia's lovely blond hair also looks permed. Mama is in the middle next to my brother Buz (crossed arms) and my sister PJ is on the right of Mama. The two young girls in the front are Fia's daughter Megan (who now has three children of her own) and Trish, Buz's daughter.

I am the oldest of six children, and Mama is in the center of it all. Daddy died in 1979 and Mama in 1993, but the family has grown and expanded since the time this picture was taken, although PJ died three years ago. The rest of the remaining five of us are scattered across the country. The last time we were all together was to celebrate PJ's life.

It's Mother's Day today in the US, and she is on my mind, along with all the other members of my family that I'm missing. I travel to Florida for a week in the winter to visit my sister Norma Jean, as well as to escape the incessant rain that makes the Pacific Northwest such a lush green wonderland. Usually I can handle it easily, but it's nice to have a change during the shortest days of the year. Maybe this year I'll visit the family in Texas, because I realize that I miss them very much. Fortunately I have them on Facebook so I can see and hear how they're doing.

Mama was only 69 when she died of heart disease (that's what PJ died of, too), and as I look at this picture and remember what we were all like back then, my heart is full, realizing how lucky I am to have been born into this family. After Daddy died, I would visit Mama wherever she was at Thanksgiving every year. Now I stay at home, since the center of our family dissipated when Mama died. I would always travel "home" for the holiday and to give thanks properly surrounded by family. "Home" is now wherever SG is. We have been together for twenty-five years now, and I don't think we had even met when this picture was taken.

When Mama visits me in my dreams, she is always a young beautiful woman, and her smile and love for her family radiates around her and spills over onto me as I sleep. I am so grateful that I am able to have vivid dreams that feel like visitations, because she never seems that far away. She resides within all of her children and grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren. Mama was a natural when it came to being a mother.

I wanted to be like her when I was young, and I had two beautiful young boys before I turned 21. My motherhood was not as fortunate as hers was, though. My beautiful Stephen died when I was 22, and Chris was left with a fractured family and a mother who could not recover her equilibrium in time to keep from damaging her remaining child. Chris turned out just fine, however, mostly because of his father's love and caring. I eventually got better, but by then the damage had been done. So even though being a mother was what I craved, the universe did not give me the same advantages that my mother had.

Every life follows its own path, often not the one we envision. I would never have imagined how my life would turn out, not in a million years. I experienced three failed marriages, the death of both of my children, no grandchildren anywhere to be seen, and my mothering instincts forced into other avenues. I was a good employee, conscientious and dedicated to my work, and I was well rewarded during my working years for it. In 1990 when I began to skydive, that activity dominated the next two decades of my life, and when I became an instructor, those mothering instincts helped me teach many students how to be safe in our chosen sport.

And through that sport, I met my life partner, and back when I first met him, I could not ever imagine that a quarter century later, we would be happier together than when we began this journey. Children are not part of my existence, but family has never been stronger. I can feel the presence in my life of my siblings, all of them, even though we don't see each other very often (other than on Facebook now and then). We are family.

Our mother is being remembered by all of us today, along with so many other people with their own mothers celebrating the day with flowers and gifts. My next-door neighbor Lynn's son built her three raised beds in her garden for Mother's Day. I smiled and was thrilled for her as I watched their progress when he constructed them yesterday.

Today I will enjoy being with my friends who surround me in this apartment complex, who greet me at the coffee shop, even strangers on the street with whom I will share this day. It's another cool and showery day, like so many we've experienced lately, and I really don't mind a bit. Yesterday the rain petered out and we had plenty of scattered sunshine in the afternoon. Hopefully it will be the same today. I heard the other day that we have already had way more rain than normal, which doesn't surprise me. We haven't started our warm spring days yet, but they are coming. I'd rather have "cool and showery" than "hot and dry."

Thinking about Mother's Day, thinking about all the mothers I know in the world who will be with their children and celebrating, there will be many of us who will remember our wonderful mothers with joy and gratitude, even though they will not be with us in the flesh, they will certainly be with us in spirit. And with that, I have written my Mother's Day post, which doesn't have much in it about my own mother (I wanted to tell you who she was to me), but the person I have become is pretty much an outcome of her love and care when I was young. She was a consummate professional when it came to mothering. I hope that you will think of your own mother today, whether she is here or not, and realize how much of who you are is because of her.

It's time for me to get up and enjoy my own Mother's Day celebrations. I hope you will be well and happy until we meet again next week.


Linda Reeder said...

Yes, because we all had mothers, we can all find cause to celebrate today in some way.
Last weekend we spent time with Jill. Yesterday we spent all day with the grand kids while Jill played in the mountains (Well, actually she was "mothering" mountaineering students who were learning to rock climb) Today she will spend with her kids, planting their garden. We will seek out time with our son today and share a meal. And we will spend some time in some lovely gardens.
Happy Mother's Day to you, and to me!

Far Side of Fifty said...

Happy Mother's Day! What a lovely old family photo! Time passes and some people along with it. Today I miss my Husbands Grandmother as she was a good solid anchor in my early mothering days. :)

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

We did fctm with daughter and grandbaby in UK while hubby simulataeously skyped with his ma. what a connected world we have become.
Later we will have a meal with Buddy and his sisrer.
Mothering others is also a part of my past and I got a greeting from several who felt the urge to reach out. My mom rarely appears in dreams. Nor does my Dad though once in a while my brother has lately.
Enjoy the week ahead.

Bonnie said...

Have a wonderful day DJan!

Elephant's Child said...

Such a lovely reminiscent post.
And thanks for your mother, who gave us the woman we admire and enjoy.

Arkansas Patti said...

We all ready knew your Mom was special for look who she produced. So glad you keep in touch with your scattered family. With all of todays gadgets, that isn't all that hard. Love that your mom visits you in your dreams. My dad does also but sadly never my mom. Perhaps because she died when I was in my early teens. I miss not getting to know her as a person instead of a mom.
Hope you have a special day.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, as Arkansas Patti says, we know your mom was special because we have come to know you. I would simply add that you are a gift to and from the Universe to all of us whose lives you have touched.

My mom died when she was 58 and I was 32. She was, of all the people I've known throughout my life, the one who most influenced who I wanted to be and who I became. She said many things to me that have guided my life, but the one that is the foundation of my entire being is this: "Dolores, you find what you look for. If you look for good, you will find it, and if you look for bad, you will surely find that too."

Sometimes, not often, I forget those words of wisdom and end up in a train wreck of misery. Then, with sudden grace, she speaks to me in a dream or in a memory and I return to become the daughter she taught me to be.

Thank you for making her so present to me today through your posting about your mother and yourself. Peace.

Red said...

Nice comparison of you and your mother. I think you're too hard on yourself with being Mom. Yes, skydiving gave you a second chance. I didn't think of my Mom today until I read your post. but I think of my Mom often as she left us at age 59.

Marie Smith said...

Hope you had a wonderful day, Jan. You deserve it.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

As always, a beautiful and moving post, DJan!

Rhapsody said...

Blessings and Happy Mother's Day.
We all do the best we can and other times in our humanness we misstep. Personally I think you're great. I don't know you personally however I have the essence of you through your words.

stay blessed.
a great week to you.

Rita said...

Your mother was a blessing to you...as you were to her. :)

troutbirder said...

Indeed. I was a mothers boy then and remain so. She shaped my outlook on life and values. For that I remain eternally grateful....

Tabor said...

This day can be so complicated for so many!!

b+ (Retire In Style Blog) said...

Bless you DJan. This post is one you should print. If anyone ever wonders who you are or were, this tells it all. It is lovely.


John's Island said...

Wonderful family recollections. This is a well written “eye” on the past that reminds me to look back and relish some of the rewards family provides. Thanks, as always, for sharing your thoughts.