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 12, 2019

The river of time

Mama and me
I was the firstborn of my mother's seven children, the one who made her a mother so long ago. This picture was taken by my dad three-quarters of a century in the past. It has so many different triggers for me when I look at it: my mother was a beauty and a proud mom. She also loved me unconditionally, which is also evident in the picture. That tiny little baby is now sitting in the bedroom with her laptop, writing her usual Sunday post on Mother's Day 2019. I was born in December 1942, so this moment captured on film had to be in 1943, actually 76 years ago now. My, oh my.

Mama has been gone from the planet since 1993. She died when she was 69, almost making it to the proverbial threescore and ten that many feel is what a normal lifespan covers. From the moment in that picture, she went on to have my sister Norma Jean two years later, and then my sister PJ was born when I was seven. For the longest time, that was the family makeup. Then in the mid-1950s, my parents decided to extend their family and Mama gave birth to my brother when I was sixteen, then had three more daughters. One infant was born prematurely, Tina Maria, and only lived for a few days. Mama and Daddy then added my youngest sisters, Markee and Fia, to the family. Fia is almost exactly twenty years younger than me, so for all those years, my parents were actively making new babies and creating a wonderful home for us all.

I was actually gone from home and had become a mother myself before the last two came along: my son Chris was born in 1961, the same year as Markee (her name is really Mary Katherine, but I have always called her that). Fia, the baby, joined the family in late 1962. Since my dad was in the Air Force, we moved around a lot when I was growing up, but then when he retired, they bought a home on the lake in Fort Worth. This meant that the last three kids were not spending their formative years moving from place to place, but having a much more normal life than the three of us, the earlier family, did. I went to three different high schools before graduating from Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth. They started and finished school in the same town.

Consequently, we had much different experiences of our early years. I would come back to visit, because wherever my mother was, that was home to me. Their home on the lake had a dock where my younger siblings learned to swim and spent the entire summer months seeming more like little otters than children. I was a little jealous of the different way they were raised, but I never felt less loved and appreciated by my parents.

All six of Mama's children have been very successful and productive in the world. Today, both Norma Jean and I have retired from our jobs and PJ died at the age of 63, of heart disease, which is what took Mama away from us, too. It runs in the family and is one reason why I exercise so faithfully. Buz lives in Arlington, Texas, with his wife Phyllis. Markee married Bob, a Canadian, and made her home there. Fia, my baby sister, lives in Texas, too, and is happily married to Russ. It's hard for me to believe, but she is a grandmother many times over. The youngest three are still in their working years but not for much longer, I suspect. Buz recently turned sixty! Yikes.

So that is the background of my family life. My dear husband and I have made a life for ourselves in retirement and (if you read this weekly) you know we just celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. When you get married in your fifties, that is an accomplishment. I never thought we'd see the day, but we did and are now looking forward to the next decade or two of life in our twilight years. It sure is nice to have him in my life.

My sister-in-law, SG's only living relative, is in town for a couple of weeks. Since we have no room to accommodate overnight guests, she is staying in an airbnb in Fairhaven. I'll visit her this afternoon to see how things are going for her. She is a recent widow (well, a few years back) and is trying to find her own place in the world. She visited us last year and loved Fairhaven, so now she can explore it to her heart's content. I'll find out what she wants my help with, and she will of course be spending plenty of time with her brother. They were not close during her married life, but now things are changing.
Time is like a river. You cannot touch the same water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of your life!
The river of time. It not only flows through our days, but the imperceptible changes, the inevitable movement of time, changes our bodies, too. That tiny little baby in the picture is now a wrinkled old woman, and Mama is, well, somewhere else. Who knows if we have an afterlife or not? Nobody has ever managed to tell us in no uncertain terms. I live my life as if I will have one, because why not? I won't know what happens after I die until I've gone through the veil, and all I know for certain is that I will one day lie down and not get up again.

In the meantime, I plan to enjoy every moment of my life, running my fingers through the icy waters of the river and marveling at the beauty all around me. Gratitude for it all flows out of me and gives me unparalleled joy. The world I live in includes memories of all those people I have loved who are no longer with me, today especially thinking of my mother and how much love passed between us. The love of a mother for her child, and the child for her mother, lives on inside my heart. Thank you, Mama, for the gift of my life.

And with that, I leave you with my sincere hope that you will find some joy in your interactions today. I am grateful for you, my electronic buddies, and the life we share together. You give me so much, and I hope I give you a little happiness back. Until we meet again next week, be well.


gigi-hawaii said...

Happy Mother's Day. This is a moving tribute to your lovely mother. Interesting to read about your siblings and who they married and where they now live.

Rian said...

Happy Mother's Day DJan! I always planned to have a large family... at least 7 and all boys! Ha! We were blessed with 3 and they were all close together so we were busy... can't imagine having 7 now. God bless your mama. There's something wonderful about large families.

Marie Smith said...

I am so glad to have found you on-line, Jan. It is amazing how others can fill your life with happiness through the electronic media! Have a wonderful day, my friend.

Linda Reeder said...

I always enjoy reading about your family history. Your bond with your mother is lovely.
My two "kids" and my two grand kids will be here at our house for dinner today. I am doing the cooking as a gift to my daughter, mother of my grands. My gift is their being here.

Gigi said...

Happy Mother's Day, DJan! Sending love and hugs.

Henny Penny said...

Happy Mother's Day. You had a beautiful mother. Reading this post was so touching.

Elephant's Child said...

I love the River of Life analogy. I have paddled, I have swum, I have trod water, I have drifted...
You definitely give a huge amount to the blogging community.
Hugs and gratitude from Oz.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Happy Mother's Day to you. My goodness sakes, I love this quote: "Time is like a river. You cannot touch the same water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of your life!" That is so true. I enjoyed your family story very much. Have I ever told you that I also lived in Fort Worth when I was kid? I'm a few years your junior but not many. Do you ever miss Ft Worth? I do at times, but then I recall the summer heat and know that I could no longer tolerate it. Like you, I'm so happy to be in the Pacific Northwest. By the way, a while back, I went over to the UW campus to take pictures of the cherry trees in bloom and posted a few pictures on John's Island and I know you saw that post because you left me a kind comment. On the drive over to the campus I went by a restaurant on 45th Street. It's called DJans. :-) I quickly grabbed the camera and snapped a photo which I want to share with you one of these days. If I had your email address I'd send it to you but I don't, so maybe one day soon I will add it to one of my posts. Anyway, getting back to your post today ... that picture you started with is simply sweet as it can be. And, at the end of the post, you said, to your electronic buddies, "You give me so much, and I hope I give you a little happiness back." The answer is yes, you do, and thank you kindly. I look forward to every new edition of Eye on the Edge. Take care and have a great day. John

Red said...

Well you took a long time to get around to the point of your post. Your Mom put in excellent time to raise her family .It's good to sit back and remember these things.

Pippa said...

I always enjoy posts about your family. I come from a large family too and my oldest sibling is 21 years older than me (much like you and Fia). Have you all discussed having a family reunion? Don't wait until the next death...you and your remaining siblings should sit around telling stories of and remembering memories of your parents, grandparents, etc. Children and babies should be passed around from grandparents to great aunts and uncles, cousins should reacquainted themselves, tears should be she'd and laughter shouted. Yes, it may take some sacrifice on everyone's part to make it happen, but in end it won't be such a sacrifice at all. It will be a blessing. I doubt your mother and father imagined their children and grandchildren scattered around with little in person contact. I know my didn't want that and even spoke of it to me shortly before she died. I've lost three brothers in the past 4 years and I've come to realize these are the golden years and I yearn to be with my family one more time. I hope we make it happen this year. I hope you and yours do too. I'm case no one else has mentioned it yet, Happy Mother's Day to you, bittersweet though it may be. Peace.

Tabor said...

What an interesting and full life your parents had. Children scattered out everywhere. The military certainly tests families and your Mother passed with flying colors.

Rita said...

Your beautiful mother had a beautiful daughter that I am glad to have met in blogland, :)

William Kendall said...

A wonderful tribute to your mother.

Galen Pearl said...

Mother's Day -- a time of so many memories and feelings, sometimes very complicated. Sadness and joy, as I'm sure you know. I have one sibling, as sister 12 years older than me. Not a 20 year gap like you, but large enough that we grew up in different generations and in some ways different households, like you and your younger siblings. Thanks, as always, for sharing your life reflections.

Friko said...

At first I thought “what’s the point going on alone?” now I feel that I must accept what is and still make the most of what there is. It would be lovely to have as many siblings as you do and get on well with all of them, that is something I miss and envy you for. But there it is, one of life’s givens, to be accepted too.

My parents are long gone, they would be straddling 100 now. I miss them too and would love to show them what has become of me.
But my life is what it is, all mine and there to be enjoyed.

Jackie said...

Jan....I have tried to comment on this post before. I’m not sure why I couldn’t....but I had it typed out and I hit “Done”....and you can probably guess the rest. Nope. Nothing sent....and everything I typed was gone. My little bottom lip poked straight out because I typed from my heart. And it was gone.
What I tried to say earlier was that your words that you type are so beautifully penned....much like perfect colors on a canvas. They paint such a clear picture that I can almost see your Mother.
I have always enjoyed reading your blogs. And, shame on me for not getting here and visiting you more often. It is definitely my loss that I don’t.
You have a tremendous gift with words.
I thank you for sharing your gift with me.
I send you love from South Georgia.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Such sweet recollections!
I will share something with you...do you recall where you were before you were born...perhaps death is just like that :)