By Dennis Minich
My mother has been gone for 17 years. Sometimes those 17 years seem like an eternity, other times it seems like only yesterday we were sitting and talking and eating and laughing.
It seems odd now, but for all the time we talked and the stories she told and the memories she shared, there are still so many things I wish I had asked. I am sure there were lots of things she would have like to have told as well, we just never got around to it all.
My mom would often leave me notes. Usually they were pretty basic and brief, but always from the heart. During the week leading up to my wedding, my mom left me a note. It said, “I am so glad you have found Debbie. She is a sweet girl. I am so happy you have found someone to be in your life. Now I don’t have to worry about getting old.”
I once read an article, I don’t know what the primary premise of the story was, but one tidbit it shared was the reason offspring have trouble taking advice from their parents is for as long as they’ve known their parents, they were old.
Granted, parents may have been as young as teenagers, in their 20s or even their 30s, which is not old by any stretch of the imagination, but to a child its ancient. As the youngster grows older, their parents correspondently get older. So in essence, the parent was always old because the perspective of the child was always the same.
It seems so hard to believe that when parents try to console us or inspire us by saying they knew how we feel, it never really seemed possible they really could know how we feel, because in our mind’s eye they were never our age and they certainly couldn’t have experienced our troubles.
Now Mom is gone. And I oddly find myself thinking about what was going on in her life when she was my age, because I can remember her when she was my age and suddenly the whole perspective changes.
My mother was my age in 1980. I remember 1980 well. The Royals were in their first World Series, J.R. was being shot on TV and the movie, “Airplane,” made the phrase “and don’t call me Shirley” the punchline of many a joke. I was working in a sports information office and as a student assistant teacher for a college English class.
Two major events in my mom’s life that year were the death of one of her brothers and my father having a stroke: I was on the phone with her at the time and she was trying to dial 911 without ever hanging up with me.
To me in 1980, Mom was old. It was 10 more years before she would leave me that note and 22 more years before she died.
Bits and pieces of her life came out after her death. I received a letter from a childhood friend of hers. I did not know they had been corresponding, I didn’t know the woman even existed, until I got that letter. It was a very touching heart-felt note relating her sadness of the death of a childhood friend. She couldn’t imagine my mother being gone, or even old. I couldn’t imagine my mother ever having been young. I now realize she was young a lot of my life, I just never knew it.
Looking back, so many of the things she said and did now make sense. I remember a bad break up in a relationship once. Mom was there to try to sooth the pain. I thought she was saying nice things to make me feel better, but it never occurred to me she was truly empathizing with me because she had lived such a moment.
I remember another time when I was struggling with what I thought was a very unique, personal issue. She offered me very good advice. I now understand she could because the issue was not unique, just part of growing up.
Through the years there were times when I would do something wrong and her reaction was to make me go cut a switch (if you ever had to cut a switch you know why that was a dreadful chore), other times it would be with a hug. There were times I made a comment and her reaction was laughter. At other times, there was that look in her eyes that froze me in my tracks. At the time many of those reactions seemed confusing. Looking back, in almost every case her reactions were right on the mark.
Regardless of how old she was or how old she seemed, the one thing I always knew was I was loved and Mom was always in my corner ready to back me up. Sunday will be yet another Mother’s Day without Mom’s physical presence, but it doesn’t matter because in spirit she is still with me every day.