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Mother Knows Best?
I love my mom. She is an amazingly strong woman. She raised four children and worked in the family business for twenty-five years during a time when women were not supposed to work. She has this strength that I knew was passed down from generation to generation; my great grandmother, my grandmother, mom, me, and my own daughters. And that strength was mixed with old wives tales, cooking, and Mom’s own worries and fears for her family…too much I might add.
Mom married young. She met my father at the ripe old age of fourteen and she never looked back. She raised babies on Karo syrup and milk for formula, changed diapers and plastic panties, cleaned us up after we played in the mud all day, got all four kids, her husband and herself ready for church every Sunday, and she even fell. down a church basement stairs with my newborn brother in her arms. As she rolled down the full flight she kept him safe and sound. She didn’t know it at the time but she broke her hip. She now walks with a distinct slight limp where she found in her later years recovered from kilter. Maybe this sounds like most moms in days gone by, but Mom also took care of her own mom when she was eight years old and even cooked for her little brother. They thought Mom’s mother was pregnant but after two years and no baby, but an ever-growing stomach, it was much worse. She had a water mass that weighed over fifty pounds. Not believing in doctors at the time, everyone hoped that she would just “snap” out of it. Mom and her grandmother ran the household. Mom worked in a peach factory at the age of nine to help support the family. Eventually her mom had to operate but she couldn’t be moved, so the surgery was done in the house. While Mom was at school she wasn’t sure if her mom would even be alive when she got back that day. Her mom lost seventy pounds that first day and they then rushed her to the hospital.
Mom returned to a “normal” life after that, but internally she had already begun to form her own perceptions about life and those perceptions carried over to raising her own children.
Mom and Dad have lived with Lee and I since Peanut was born. Peanut is almost thirteen now and has been lucky enough to be raised by two generations of women.
I find myself laughing now at some of the things my mom used to tell me and I thought were true. I found that some of Mom’s wisdom was born out of fear and a need to know all the answers even if she didn’t.
I came last. I was the baby of the family. Mom was so excited that I was a girl. Mom had a hard time with me in labor, but why wouldn’t she? She had a broken hip and had no idea. She retells the story on my birthday every year, “You just wouldn’t come out. You were stuck. The doctor used forceps and everything. The doctor said there was nothing more he could do and they were preparing me for surgery. . I screamed “God, Universe, Angels… whoever is out there, just give her a nudge! I then yelled, “I’m your mother and you better listen to me…get out…NOW!” She said at that moment I flew out as if I heard what she said. She said from that moment I always wanted to stay inside rather than be in the physical world.
We get along famously. Like a pair of girlfriends tied at the hip. We have a ball when we go to town and have Chinese cuisine together. She needs my arm to go from here to there. She won’t use a cane and she won’t go to any store that doesn’t have a basket to lean on. She doesn’t want anyone to think she can’t pull her weight at her age, which is eighty.
She loves to overcomplicate a simple experience. It doesn’t come from wanting to be overly complicated; it comes from not wanting to ‘put yourself out’ in any way. If we decide to eat somewhere, she repeatedly asks if I want to go somewhere else, “We don’t have to go there. We can go here if you want. I mean Chinese sounds good, but if not. sounds good to you…”
“It’s great Mom. I like Chinese.”
“Me too but maybe you don’t feel like it today even though I do. Your dad loves Chinese. We could always go with him instead when you bring him into town for his doctor’s appointment.”
When we drive, she hangs on to the handlebars and yelps, “Ow!” every few minutes. She has bad eyesight and that eyesight makes things seem closer than they are.
“Where are we going? You’ve never been this way before,” she says like I’m doing something wrong.
“We walk this way all the time Mom.”
“Well… I guess I’m just kidding then. I have no idea where we are. Are you sure you…”
She insists on buying me candy when I help her like I’m a little girl. This totally cracks me up. Don’t get me wrong, I love sweets but I don’t eat much of it anymore especially since I’m shedding weight but that doesn’t matter to Mom. She always tells me that I am too skinny and if I lose more weight I will look older than I am and that I will look skinny.
“It’s just not healthy, Bethie.”
“Bethie? I made some pinto beans with ham and bacon in them. You’re going to eat them aren’t you?”
She doesn’t seem to remember that I haven’t eaten pinto beans since I was a little girl. They gave me the tummy ache then and still do.
“You don’t like my beans, do you? Oh well… you know beans don’t make you fat? They just give people gas… that’s all. I figured out how to stop the beans from making people fart on you. know.”
I can feel the laughter rising in my throat. I keep it together. I don’t want to hurt her feelings.
“How’s that Mom?”
“You dip them in baking soda.”
“Did you know that vinegar cures EVERYTHING? If you just drink a cup of vinegar every day, you won’t get cancer.”
I don’t say a word. She had cancer and it is in remission. She drinks a cup of vinegar every day.
“Bethie? You know what drives me crazy? When your dad sneezes. I’m afraid he’s going to blow his head off someday. You know…that happens sometimes.”
Stay down laugh.
“Bethie? I’ve always heard that when a man got old, he no longer had drive. You know what I mean by drive, don’t you?”
I nod hoping she’s not going any further with the subject.
“He’s STILL grabbing my bottom. Can you believe it?”
Yes I can believe it. Since his stroke he does it in front of all of us all the time.
“You know… I love that old coot. I wouldn’t take a million for him but I wouldn’t take a penny for another one.”
I must say living with my parents is a wonderful experience. They make me laugh every day of my life whether it’s intentional or not.
I know that all her worries, all her stories, all her complaints; all her questions are part of who she is. And I’ll take it all in for just a few more years with this amazing woman I call ‘Mom.’
As I’m cutting up the guinea pigs’ breakfast, mom comes up behind me and gives me a big hug, “I love you baby girl.”
“I love you too Mom.”
“Can I feed the pigs?”
I hand her the tray full of vegetables. It’s one of her favorite things to do. She walks into the guinea pigs’ room with that sweet little one, holds the lettuce up in the air, and giggles just like a little girl as they reach for their little star paws.
My mom…one in a million…I wouldn’t trade her for the world.
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