time and tide

I can’t remember who decided to make Mom breakfast in bed but my brother and I would wake early on Mother’s Day morning to prepare a breakfast surprise. Sundays were good days because our parents either attended or hosted a party Saturday (and Friday) nights. So nobody but us ever woke early.

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These breakfasts were generally not messy! No attempts at pancakes a la eggshells, or half-cooked scrambled eggs. Neither of us ever even thought of trying something that involved dangerous appliances like stoves or blenders. No, our breakfast for Mom consisted of carrot strips, burned toast dripping with butter. I don’t even think we tried to make coffee. Back then Mom ground coffee beans every morning. But juice and probably milk or at least water, which sloshed over the tray and the plate making her toast a sodden mess. She always gave us a big bright smile and oohed gratefully.

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And we were so proud of ourselves!

My mother had served her country. She graduated Smith College 1943 and enlisted in the Navy. Her father had served in WW I, Army, in France. Her uncle was Navy, serving again in WW II. Mom was responsible for a psychiatric ward in San Diego. She loved what she did. She was deeply patriotic. She never spoke of her time in service.

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My mother was one of the strongest people I have ever known. She survived my childhood, the loss of a child, life with my difficult Father, and cancer. She kept busy. In addition to raising my surviving brother and me, she volunteered in Junior League building a Nature Museum at a popular park, complete with planetarium, was member of a DAR chapter, even participated in a sit-in with other moms when the local government planned to take part of our elementary school playground away for a nearby college parking lot.

Having worked in advertising where she met my dad she was fashionable and confident. I was shy, and shunned fads and fashion.

She lived for golf, and though she was in a garden club she killed any plant she touched. She was in a book club, and second only to golf was her love for bridge. Something she once told me I wasn’t smart enough to learn. But she was so smart, and very funny, and she had many friends who were so dear to her.

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She and I were close in a love-hate kind of way. I argued about everything. She called me a maverick. I had trust issues. Nobody’s perfect (least of all me), but Mom had one failingΒ  my brother and I still disagree over. There were many nights when Dad was not home (he commuted weekly to New York), where I would help Mom to bed, and lock the house. From the age of about 6. My brother and I called it her mood, but she drank. I once told my father who I suppose confronted Mom, who likely denied it, or maybe he didn’t and just assumed I was being the height of disrespectful. Whatever, I got a spanking I will never forget.

So I never said another word.

And I wish I could forget.

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When Dad’s company finally moved us up north and we spent actual evenings home at the dinner table together everything changed. No more ‘moods’. We all became closer. Well, inasmuch as any dysfunctional family can. We did try to find a church but it was a ‘high’ church and swung incense so we didn’t go back. To any church.

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I don’t remember when I decided that she never liked me much. After my divorce she could not understand why I grieved. She and my father had disliked my ex-husband and could not understand that my sadness was not so much for not being married to him as the death of my marriage which I had wanted so badly to work. The distance became greater when she told me my struggles as a single mom were no different than her raising my brother and me when Dad commuted.

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I guess the real sadness was I never tried to talk with her about any of this. She has been gone for 30 years and, with all the tides that have ebbed and flowed and all the time that’s passed, I still miss her.

Or maybe I miss the relationship I always believed we had because I wished so hard for it. So this is a facet of my brokenness. A critical aspect of who I am, but it stems from who my mother never was. And I do try to focus on the happy memories but they are few.

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Kind of like these two boats rescue dogs Lily, Lulu and I watched coming down the river this week. Mom and I were never quite together on things.

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But I suppose we can find grace in the chinks of light that shine through our brokenness. These flowers greeted me early this morning. They are from my sweet son. He lives several states away. He’s grown now, successful in his work and friendships. I am so proud of him. There are many regrets though that I have from when he was growing up. I had to work so hard to pay bills and buy food. He doesn’t remember it like that, mercifully. He doesn’t remember my frustration, or what I always thought he lacked.

Grace. What we receive and do not deserve. And mercy. What we deserve but do not receive.

God is so good.

To any Moms who may be reading this,Β  Happy Mother’s Day.

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23 thoughts on “time and tide

  1. your relationship with your mom sounds like mine with my oldest sister. When she died, I sobbed. My husband said, “why are you crying for someone who hated you from the first breath you took?” I told him, “I’m crying for what should have been and never was.” It’s a deep ache that never goes away – I am sorry that you feel this ache too.

  2. Family is so complicated. No mother is everything her daughter wants her to be and vice versa. (I think it’s very different with mothers and sons.) It takes God to fill in the gaps. Mercy. πŸ™‚ Blessings on a new week!!

    • Very True! Despite our differences (and emotional distance) I had tremendous respect for Mom till she died. There are many things I remember that are very important. Once when I was about 5 and shadowing her in the kitchen I asked where God came from. Without hesitation she said, β€œHe just was.” Perfect answer.

  3. One of my college friends was in the Navy. I went to visit him in San Diego and was so in awe of the many big ships there. Then I was in more awe of that city, after I had seen how the Navy Seals train on the beach there on the Military Channel. Oy!
    What a lovely post this is. Very much enjoyed this read. And the beautiful flowers. The sunflower reminded me that I am supposed to pick up some sunflower seeds at the hardware store, the next time I go. Thanks.
    I certainly know how a good spanking feels like! Will share my story on that later.
    I bet writing this post was a real toughie for ya, huh? It’s always hard to write honestly about someone in your family, especially when deep, deep, deep down inside you love ’em because they’re family. Even through all the pains they had caused us, we love ’em for who they are.
    Reminds me of a message at church, where the pastor said how God loves us, not because of what we do or how we are. But just because we are who we are, regardless of our many ugly sinful spots and blemishes.
    Thank God for His grace, yes!
    Wishin’ a beautiful day to ya!

  4. I remember when I realized my mom didn’t like me very much. It was probably the night we sat down to dinner and she looked up at me and said, “I don’t love you. I wish you’d go live with your dad” πŸ™‚ That led to a 25 year estrangement. I always tried to make it up with my son but like you I had to work and put food on the table. He didn’t see it that way either. He tells me I was the best mom in the world, and that he had everything. I feel blessed that he loves me enough to tell me that tall tale πŸ™‚ Sorry I am dropping you so many comments all at once but I am trying to catch up πŸ™‚ The images are beautiful πŸ™‚

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