May 10, 2005

You need to know your mother.....

You really need to know your mother, to really understand who you are. In my generation, if you grew up to be a jerk, people felt sorry for your mom, she was rarely blamed for the person you became. In some cultures it still somewhat remains that way. One of my favorite things in life is watching a game on TV and as the cameras flash to the bench, a huge African-American football player yells "I love you mom!!" I never saw them say "I love you dad" nor have I seen a white guy say it.

Unlike today where mom pretty much carries the weight for most of what her off-spring will become. Working in foster care I see first hand what mom does or did, is monumental in the life of her child.

I was born to my mother when she was 38 years old, and named after her by my father. We both shared the name Genevieve, much to my dismay. I weighed 10lbs 11oz. Just thinking of my huge headsize and her boggy post partum uterus should have been reason to worship her all my life, but I didn't. As a child, having "old" parents was an embarrassment to me, and the fact that my mom limped, furthered my embarrassment. Polio at 4 months had left her left leg atrophied and shorter than the right leg, thus the limp.

Mama was never deterred by her slight handicap, she actively participated in life raising 4 children, doing youth groups, serving as a girl scout leader, PTA president, teaching Sunday School, served on the Baptist Orphange auxillery, the Helping Hand Mission, SS class and missionary groups, always riding buses and trolleys because she never learned to drive and my father was away much of the time. Not to mention she could entertain 50, cooking out of her 4'-7' kitchen. She also kept up with a group of high school friends for over 70 years, who she referred to as "theGirls".

I never chatted about my life with Mom and probably preferred my dad who was outgoing, charasmatic, demonstrative, caring and always the center of attention. My mom was consistant, she was the disciplinarian and she was faithful. If she said she would do something, you could count on her. She was never late and was extremely dependable. Mom never sat on my bed and listened to my chatter for hours, she never knew what secrets a child's heart can hold and she was rather mean to us when we were sick. It was the only time she would let us rest in the big bed she shared with dad, but it was short lived because she seemed to want us to get well and go back to school. So when I had kids I did those things, and was extremely nice when they were sick.

I always felt loved by my mom, and truthfully most of my friends moms acted the same, they were just younger. It wasn't until my life became difficult being a mom that I stopped and looked at my own mother. And it would take even more years till I really looked into her heart and soul. The great part of this story is, she didn't expect anything from me and she probably never thought about these things which frequently torture me. She loved me, was proud of me and thought I was a good mom, when I seriously doubted that. She didn't constantly analyze as I do.

It wasn't until she was older that I started to truly look at her. For some, I don't think she was an "easy" old person. She was often sharp and cutting with her words. But I found her quite the opposite and frequently wondered why I had not taken the time to know Mom better. Daddy died in 1990 and she was left alone at 501 to fend for herself. Others bore the heaviness of an aged mother living alone but living in FL I missed the responsibilities and pretty much delighted in her.

She had an ottoman where she organized her life; Bible, "Daily Bread" devotional book, missionary letters, stationary, remote control, notebook for recording daily happenings, and most important, her prayer list.......they all had a specific place. She chided you if you moved anything out of place. I know now it was the way a highly organized person keep their life together when their mind begins to fail. God help those like myself who were never organized in life!

Mama was amazingly strong and selfless. She refused valve surgery when given only 6 weeks to live, not wanting to take the attention from my dying sister. She was faithful, always remembering birthdays and special occasions. She taught us to celebrate holidays, making everyone special. She was a prayer warrior who prayed not only for you..but for your friends when you long forgot.

But she was far from perfect, her words were often sharp. Once while visiting her, I forgot to do something and she barked "Use your head!" daughter later brought it to my attention, troubled that my mom would speak to me like that. But for me, well I hadn't noticed until I was questioned about it. The next time she did it I asked, "Mom! Is that how you talked to me when I was a kid, no wonder I'm crazy!!" I laughed but she got serious, "I don't know? Oh I hope not!" She was pensive after that, it was healing for me. I was always impressed that at 90, we would talk and she would think about something and perhaps could actually embrace another point of view. We had great talks the years before she died.

I miss my mother, I am sad she is gone, I have so much to ask her and so much to tell her. My sister told me once that our mom truly knew she was loved by me. I blew it off at the time, but I never forgot those words. I am glad Mama knew how how much I loved her. Sometimes grieving comes late.

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