Friday, May 11, 2007

A Mother's Day Tribute

My mother was funny, warm, attractive, an adventurous cook and skilled gardener who grew many of her own herbs and vegetables, an interested listener, a fine conversationalist and a caring person who set a good example for my sisters and me as a volunteer in our schools and later with mentally disabled youngsters. She was an artist who made sure we all had a visual vocabulary and understood the importance of art not only as decoration and expression but as a way to communicate and process the world. She was a young widow left with three children to raise and she went back to school and got not only a bachelor's degree but also a master's degree so she could support us.

She died in 2001 much too young after a decade-long decline due to Parkinson's Disease. The disease slowly robbed her of her mobility, her clarity and eventually even the ability to enjoy a good piece of apple pie or a whipped cream eclair, but it never robbed her of her dignity, her delight in her grandchildren's visits or her attempts to tease or bedevil my middle sister. There was no estate to speak of, but my mother left my sisters and I rich in other ways. I don't assume her legacy is the same for all three of us, but I do know how it has enriched me and I hope I can pass these treasures on to my two sons. So on this mother's day with an ache in my throat from missing her that is undiminished by time, I hope to pass on her joy of life to others.

As the disease progressed and the ability to do much of what she loved was cruelly taken away from her, she still found a way to find things to look forward to and enjoy. The visits of my young niece, a smuggled-in Italian pastry, the kindness of a health aide, these all helped made life worth living for her. I personally never heard her complain. Sometimes I wished she would fight harder or do things differently, but she had her own way about it all and it suited her. It was hard to be a continent away, but I am blessed with two sisters who lived near her and were able to facilitate her little enjoyments.

I can't really remember spending a mother's day with her once I was grown and out of the house. I'm sure I sent cards and gave presents, but I never gave her what she had given me for all the years we had together, sometimes gifts I didn't appreciate at the time.

I remember being 30ish and on line for tea at Harrod's in London and embarrassed by my mother striking conversations up with the strangers beside us. On the train ride to the channel that same trip she got the British railroad conductor to open up on his views of American politics. Now I am embarrassed of my reaction back then and wish I could would have joined in instead of looking at the floor and turning away red-faced.

Mom was always proud of me and my accomplishments. I just wish I had the insight and ability to tell her how proud I was of her and hers. Maybe her final gift to me was loving me even though I didn't get it and trusting that someday I would. If so, it's one of the best gifts I've ever received and its a gift I hope I can give to someone in return.


About the photo: Mom in Convent Garden in London in 1985

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