Today is my mother’s birthday. She would be 93 years old. It’s been 8 and half years since her death and I am through the grieving process; but not through missing her. I am not sure I will ever stop missing her…or my dad. They are so much a part of me, of who I am. I can still feel the love they had for me. It is as strong today as it ever was even though they are neither of them part of this world any more.
Mother was born at home in the hills of eastern Oklahoma. She was delivered by her grandmother, the first of 11 children. The sister who came after her died in infancy so there was a gap of four years between herself and her next sister. The 10th sibling was born when mother was 20 years old; that’s nine children my grandmother gave birth to in the sixteen years that spanned the birth of her second surviving child to the birth of the tenth. My mother became her mother’s helper and was actually a surrogate mother to some of her siblings. She grew up young, taking care of younger siblings, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, being the grownup daughter before she was grownup.
I was her first born child and she raised me much as she had been raised in terms of responsibility. I was helping with the laundry as soon as I could stand on a box and hang clothes on the line, helping with the cleaning and taking care of my younger siblings; changing diapers by the time I was six. I was babysitting for neighbors by the time I was eight.
One day after my firstborn was two or three, my mother and I were talking in her kitchen. She stood watching me wash the dishes in her sink, then she said, “I think I robbed you of your childhood.” I stopped what I was doing and faced her. “No,” I told her. But she insisted she had deprived me of my childhood by expecting so much of me when I was still just a baby. “I don’t know,” she tried to explain what she did not truly understand herself, “the day I brought your sister home from the hospital (I was 18 months old) I figured you weren’t a baby anymore, so I started training you to help take care of her and help around the house.” She looked very sad as she told me this. “I always thought that the best thing I could do for you was teach you to do without me as quickly as possible. I’m sorry.”
I didn’t know how to respond to her. “Well,” I finally managed to say, “I never noticed. I had a wonderful childhood. It seemed normal to me and I don’t remember suffering from it.” She just nodded and we said no more on the subject, but it gave me some insight into her heart and I loved her the more for it.
I shared a love of books and writing with my mother. She was always writing something: journals, letters, poems, stories, thoughts and plans she jotted down here and there. I now have some of those writings and I have loved going through them; seeing her through her own eyes. Find out about her childhood and getting a glimpse of the early relationship between her and my father. I feel like it has been a privilege to get to see her in a whole new way; helps to bring her closer. Sometimes it feels like she’s still close at hand, that I could just pick up the phone and call her; then I remember and think of all the things I want and need to tell her….and can’t.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOTHER! I love you forever.