I love my mom. She is an amazingly strong woman. She raised four children and worked in the family business for twenty five years during a time where women weren’t supposed to be working. She has this strength that I knew had been passed down from generation to generation; my great grandma, my grandma, Mom, me, and my own daughters. And that strength was mixed in with old wives’ tales, cooking, and Mom’s own worries and fears for her family…overly so I might add.
Mom married young. She met my dad at the ripe old age of fourteen and she never looked back. She raised babies on Karo syrup and milk for formula, changed cloth diapers and plastic panties, scrubbed us clean after we played in the mud all day, got all four kids, her husband, and herself ready for church every Sunday, and she even fell down a flight of church basement stairs with my newborn brother in her arms. As she rolled down the full flight she kept him safe and sound. She didn’t know it at the time but she had broken her hip. She now walks with a distinct little limp where she found out in her later years had healed off kilter. Maybe this sounds like most moms in days gone by but Mom also took care of her own mom when she was eight years old and even cooked for her baby brother. They thought Mom’s mother was pregnant but after two years and no baby, but an ever growing stomach, it was much worse. She had a water tumor that weighed over fifty pounds. Not believing in doctors back then everyone hoped that she would just ‘snap’ out of it. Mom and her grandma took care of the household. Mom worked in a peach factory at the age of nine to help out the family. Eventually her mom had to have surgery but she couldn’t be moved so the surgery was done in the house. While Mom was at school she wasn’t sure if her mom would even be alive when she got back that day. Her mom lost seventy pounds in that first day and they then transported her to the hospital.
Mom got back to a ‘normal’ life after that but inside she had already began to form her own perceptions about life and those perceptions carried over to raising her own children.
Mom and Dad have lived with Lee and I since Peanut was born. Peanut is almost thirteen now and has been lucky to have been raised by two generations of women.
I find myself laughing now at some of the things my mom used to say to me and I thought were true. I found that some of Mom’s wisdom was born out of fear and a need to know all the answers even if she didn’t.
I came along last. I was the baby of the family. Mom was so excited that I was a girl. Mom had a hard time with me in labor but why wouldn’t she? She had a broken hip and had no idea. She retells the story on the eve of my birthday every year, “You just wouldn’t come out. You were stuck. The doctor used forceps and everything. The doctor said there was nothing more he could do and they were prepping me for surgery. I yelled out “God, Universe, Angels…whoever is there just give her a yank! I then yelled, “I’m your mother and you better listen to me…come out…NOW!” She said at that moment I came flying out as if I had heard what she said. She said ever since that moment I’ve always wanted to stay on the inside than be in the physical world.
We get along famously. Like a couple of girlfriends attached at the hip. We have a ball when we go to town and have Chinese cuisine together. She needs my arm to get from here to there. She won’t use a cane and she won’t go to any store that doesn’t have a basket to lean on. She doesn’t want anyone to think she can’t pull her weight at her age which is eighty.
She loves to overcomplicate a simple experience. It doesn’t come out of wanting to be overcomplicated; it comes from not wanting to ‘put you out’ somehow. If we decide on somewhere to eat she asks over and over again if I want to go somewhere else, “We don’t have to go there. We can go here if you want. I mean Chinese sounds good but if it doesn’t sound good to you…”
“It’s great Mom. I like Chinese.”
“So do I but maybe you don’t feel like it today even though I do. Your dad loves Chinese. We could always go with him instead when you bring him to town for his doctor appointment.”
When we are driving she hangs on to the handle and yelps, “Oh!” every few minutes. She has bad eyesight and that eyesight makes things appear closer than they are.
“Where are we going? You’ve never gone this way before,” she says as if I am doing something wrong.
“We go this way all the time Mom.”
“Well…I guess I’m just screwy then. I have no idea where we are. Are you sure you…”
She insists on buying me candy when I help her as if I am a little girl. This totally cracks me up. Don’t get me wrong, I love candy but I don’t eat much of it anymore especially since I’ve been releasing weight but that doesn’t matter to Mom. She is always telling me that I am too skinny and if I lose any more weight I’m going to look older than I am and that I’ll look gaunt.
“It just not healthy, Bethie.”
“Bethie? I made some pinto beans with ham and bacon in them. You will eat them won’t you?”
She doesn’t seem to remember that I haven’t eaten pinto beans since I was a little girl. They gave me the belly ache then and still do.
“You don’t like my beans, do you? Well fine…you know beans are not fattening? They just give people gas…that’s all. I’ve figured out how to keep the beans from making people fart you know.”
I can feel the giggle coming up into my throat. I hold it together. I don’t want to hurt her feelings.
“How’s that Mom?”
“You soak them in baking soda.”
“Did you know that vinegar heals EVERYTHING? If you just drink a cupful of vinegar everyday you won’t get cancer.”
I don’t say a word. She had cancer and it is in remission. She drinks a cupful of vinegar every day.
“Bethie? Do you know what drives me crazy? When your dad sneezes. I’m afraid he’s going to blow his head off one day. You know…that happens sometimes.”
Stay down giggle.
“Bethie? I always heard that as a man got older he didn’t have an urge anymore. You know what I mean by urge don’t you?”
I nod my head hoping she doesn’t go further with the subject.
“He STILL grabs my bottom. Can you believe it?”
Yes I can believe it. Since his stroke he does it in front of all of us all the time.
“You know…I love that old coot. I wouldn’t take a million for him but I wouldn’t take a penny for another.”
I have to say living with my parents is a wonderful experience. They make me laugh every single day of my life whether it is intentional or not.
I know that all her worrying, all her stories, all her complaints; all her questions are a part of who she is. And I will take all of it for just a few more years with this wonderful woman I call ‘Mom.’
As I cut up the guinea piggies’ breakfast, Mom comes up behind me and gives me a big hug, “I love you baby daughter.”
“I love you too Mom.”
“Can I feed the piggies?”
I hand her the tray full of vegetables. It is one of her favorite things to do. She walks into the guinea piggies’ room with that cute little limp, holds the lettuce up in the air, and giggles just like a little girl as they reach up with their little starfish paws.
My mom…one in a million…I wouldn’t trade her for the world.