Thank You, Mom
I was fortunate to have two great parents. My dad, an OSU professor, died more than 15 years ago, but my mom is still living in Stillwater in the house I grew up in. I spent some time with her last weekend. At 92, she doesn’t get around as well as she used to, but she asked me if I wanted to “take a walk in the backyard,” so I escorted her around the wildflowers she had grown along the back edge of the lawn, and we talked about the two feral cats that my sister feeds who were lounging in the shade under a tree.
These days my mom’s memory is sharper when recalling past event than taking in current information. She is especially fond of telling stories about her childhood and young adulthood that, for whatever reason, are vivid in her mind. She grew up on a farm in southeastern Oklahoma near McAlester, moved to work in Tulsa during the war, and met my dad who was from Colorado but was visiting his sister in Tulsa, who was a friend of my mom’s. My parents communicated long distance while my dad was in graduate school in Washington, eventually marrying and living in Colorado.
I could list many things that my mom taught me: She showed me the right way to iron a shirt (a lesson I rarely use); by her excellent example, she taught me to cook; she taught me how to write thank-you notes; she taught me to love books, art and modern décor.
Whipping through the facts of someone’s life leaves so much out. It leaves out the most important bits. My mom remembers her childhood with happiness. Many of her stories involve one person helping out another. But her life wasn’t easy. When she was a baby, her father went to the Northwest to work on the ship-loading docks. She remembers the hard work of picking cotton as a child, and the months that she had to take over her mother’s duties on the farm when her mother was away at a tuberculosis sanitorium. There were difficult losses, like her adult brother falling under a plow when he was helping out on the farm.
I can remember a time when my grandparents’ farmhouse didn’t have indoor plumbing, and the kitchen had a pump handle to pull water from the well. When she left the farm for Tulsa, it must have seemed like a million miles away. She and my dad were married in Pueblo, Colorado, and she got a job at the Pueblo Army Depot, a U.S. army ammunition storage and supply facility. Years later, when we lived in Stillwater, she used to point out the mounds where the ammunition was stored when we drove from Oklahoma to see my dad’s parents every summer.
When I was home with my mom last week, I noticed that she was just sitting in a chair looking at nothing. I asked what she was doing, and she said, “Just sitting here thinking. Sometimes I wonder how I got here. Why I’m here.” She proceeded to tell me another story from her past, one that I had heard several times before but still, I listened.
All of us may ask that existential question about why we’re here from time to time. For me, my mom is a mom. She doesn’t need to ask why she’s here because she has always been here for me. Thank you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!