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, February 17, 2019

Thinking of my mom

Mama watering in her backyard
While rummaging around in my pictures, looking for one to head up this post, I found this one of my mother at some time in the last few decades. She was still living at Windswept, the place where she and my dad retired to, and lived there for many years. I had left home long before, but during many times of needing to come home when in the throes of a difficult period in my life, I lived there too. My youngest siblings were raised here, a wonderful home right on Lake Worth in Texas.

When my parents first moved there, it had been an abandoned bachelor pad, with one bedroom and an overgrown thicket of weeds behind. At some point it had been some kind of estate, because there were several small outbuildings that had functioned as servant's quarters long before. My parents renovated the place, adding rooms and really made it a fine home for their family. My brother and two youngest sisters learned to swim and live safely by the lake. When I would visit, I saw that they spent most of their summer days in swimsuits and came and went without much supervision. It was idyllic, those long-ago days. And in the center of it all was Mama.

I remember once long ago, not long after they moved there, that Mama took me to inspect the parts of the property where nothing had yet been done. We pushed our way through dense brush and we inspected one of the nearby buildings that would become an annex to the main building one day. The massive amount of effort that needed to be expended boggled my mind, and I've never forgotten my sense of disbelief that she could accomplish all that. But she did.

Mama was always working, if she wasn't busy reading or cooking. When she first had breast cancer and had to have a radical mastectomy, she went through that with the same strong sense of energy she applied to everything else in her life. She went through phases where she would tackle enormous projects and in time, would accomplish all she set out to do. Her cancer never returned, even though she had been given only a small percentage of chance (5%) to survive it. But she did.

The health problems she had later were mostly due to the aggressive radiation treatment she had been given after the mastectomy. It scarred her heart and did massive damage to the entire area. And then she began to have heart attacks and had to fight to maintain her strength. But even after all that, she continued to make her way forward to accomplish as much as a healthier person ever could. She had incredible will power.

I see Mama's determination reflected in all of her children. My sister Norma Jean strides through life much in the same way: she tackles projects with enthusiasm and drive, and never gives up. Her home in Florida is a happy place, which she shares with her son Peter. I visit there once a year, in the winter, to escape the incessant rain and dreary skies. I am surrounded by love and her dogs. She just recently had to put their 17-year-old Jack Russell to sleep and got another dog almost immediately, because her Papillon Icarus was very lonely. Charley had only been living there a few weeks when I arrived, and I was completely smitten by him. He must have known how dog deprived I was, because he was always in my lap and slept with me when I was there. I missed him as much as I missed my sister when I returned home.

I have four surviving siblings. Our sister PJ, who died in 2014 from complications of heart disease, at the young age of 63, is still in our hearts. We talk of her and think about how she would have appreciated certain books. She was an avid reader, just like our mother.

Norma Jean and I are now septuagenarians, and my young siblings are all middle aged. Time has flown. I look back on my life and realize how incredibly lucky I've been to have been born into such a family, a tribe of strong-willed individuals, and realize I'm one, too. The oldest of the clan, I can see traits from my mother in all of my relatives, and think of how much we all owe to the one who bore us, our mother. Rita Maxine Rice Stewart was a force to be reckoned with, and those of us who are still here bring forth her essence into the present moment. I think she would have appreciated this quote from Ellen:
I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it's such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her. Ellen DeGeneres
I hope that made you laugh, as I did when I found it just now. And with that, I leave you with much love and hope that you will have a wonderful week ahead, and if you still have your mother, make sure you connect with her this week. I'm expecting a visit from my mom, courtesy of Dreamland. That's where my dear partner is right now, sleeping quietly next to me, as I begin my Sunday morning routine. Be well until we meet again next week, dear readers.


Linda Reeder said...

As I read your post this morning, I contemplated my own mother, and my childhood. I am second oldest of seven children. My mother worked hard to keep us fed and clothed and educated and raised with strong character. Not really strong willed, but with strength of will power, she believed in hard work, and she was the model. Her motto, often repeated, was ,"If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Always do your best." That trait is in all five of us surviving siblings.
Thanks for another reflective post to start off my Sunday.

Arkansas Patti said...

Thanks for the peek into what makes you the woman you are today. In your description of your Mom, I can see where you get your drive.
Loved Ellen's quote. How true.

Elephant's Child said...

Ellen's quote is brilliant. Humour, with a bite.
And I loved learning a little of where you got your oh so evident strength and determination.l
Have a wonderful week.

gigi-hawaii said...

It's good that you have happy memories of your mother. I have so few of mine.

Friko said...

Hi DJan, your Mum is a hard act to follow but from what I've learned over the years about your tribe is that none of you lack in the courage department. You most certainly don’t. A good week to you too.
I am glad to be back blogging.

Red said...

Your Mom was an amazing woman. She accomplished much against some big challenges.

Far Side of Fifty said...

You Mom sounds like an amazing woman. I visited my parents yesterday. I wish I had more in common with my Mother but I simply don't. I had a wonderful relationship with several of my Aunts who are now deceased... they were like Mothers to me :)

Galen Pearl said...

That was a sweet description of your mom. It's interesting to note the range of responses in the comments. Parent child relationships can be complex.

Rita said...

Funny, my mom and I just gabbed on the phone for an hour and a half tonight. If you would have told me decades ago that I would be able to talk with my mother for that long and not feel totally stressed and defensive...well, we have both gotten so old that none of the past matters anymore. Long route to forgiveness. I'm sure I hurt her, too.

Life is good. :)

Your mother was quite an example for all of you. From how you describe her I can see her in you, too. :)

Annsterw said...

What a beautiful post! Your mother sounds a lot like mine! Thank you for sharing her with us! Have a lovely week!

Linda Myers said...

Your mom and your childhood sounds enviable!

Marie Smith said...

You had a wonderful childhood by the sound of it. Your Mom was a gem! What wonderful experiences you took into the world with you, Jan!

Marty said...

What a wonderful family to have as your foundation. I so much enjoyed meeting your mother.

William Kendall said...

A wonderful tribute to your mother. One doesn't stop missing them, generally speaking. My mother passed away in 2013, and certain times of the year can be difficult for me.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, thank you for this lovely tribute to the strength and fortitude and valor of your mother. Your thoughts reflect many I have about my own mother. I feel her close every day even though she has now been dead for 50 years. Whoever I am for myself and others, it is because of my mother's love for me. Thank you again. Peace.

Hilary said...

Miss my mother every day....and always will. When I die, if we meet those that have passed on before us, I want to see my mother most of all.