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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, at a time when women were not supposed to work. It has this power that I knew had been passed down from generation to generation. my great grandmother, my grandmother, my mother, myself and my own daughters. And that power was mixed with old wives’ tales, cooking, and Mom’s own worries and fears about her family…too much, so I might add.
Mom remarried. She met my dad at the ripe old age of fourteen and never looked back. She raised babies on Karo syrup and formula milk, changed cloth diapers and plastic underwear, washed us after we played in the mud all day, got all four kids, her husband and herself ready for church every Sunday, and even got under a church basement staircase with my newborn brother in her arms. As he descended the entire flight, it kept him safe and sound. She didn’t know it at the time, but she had broken her hip. She now walks with a distinct slight limp which she discovered in her later years had been cured. Maybe this sounds like most moms of days gone by, but mom was taking care of her own mom when she was eight years old and even cooking for her brother. They thought mom’s mother was pregnant, but after two years and no baby but an ever-growing stomach, it was much worse. It had a volume in the water that weighed over fifty kilograms. He didn’t believe the doctors then, they all hoped he would just ‘get over it’. Her mother and grandmother took care of the household. Mom worked in a peach factory at the age of nine to support the family. Eventually her mom had to have surgery but she couldn’t move so the surgery was done at home. While mom was at school, she wasn’t sure if her mom would be alive when she returned that day. Her mom lost seventy pounds that first day, and then she was taken to the hospital.
Mom returned to a “normal” life after that, but inside she had already begun to form her own perceptions of life, and those perceptions carried over into raising her own children.
Mom and Dad have been living with Lee and I since Peanut was born. Peanut is almost thirteen now and has been lucky to be raised by two generations of women.
I find myself laughing now at some of the things my mom used to tell me that I thought were true. I discovered that some of Mom’s wisdom was born out of fear and the 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 shouldn’t she? He had a broken hip and had no idea. He retells the story on the eve of 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 else he could do and they were prepping me for surgery. I cried out ‘God, Universe, Angels …anyone out there just give her a yank! Then I yelled, “I’m your mother and you better listen to me…come out…NOW!” He said at that moment I came flying out as if I had heard what he said. He said that from that moment I always wanted to stay indoors rather than in the physical world.
We’re doing great. Like some girlfriends attached at the hip. We have a ball when we go to town and have Chinese cuisine together. He needs my hand to go from here to there. He will not use a cane and will not go into any shop that has not a basket to lean on. She doesn’t want anyone to think she can’t pull her weight in her eighties.
She likes to overcomplicate a simple experience. It does not arise from a desire to be overly complicated. it comes from not wanting to “out” you in some way. If we decide to eat somewhere, he asks over and over 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 it sounds good to you…”
“That’s great mom. I like Chinese.”
“Me too, but maybe you don’t like it today even though I have it. Your dad loves Chinese. We could always go with him when you bring him into town for his doctor’s appointment.”
When we drive, he hangs on the handlebars and yells, “Oh!” every few minutes. He has poor eyesight and this eyesight makes things look closer than they are.
“Where are we going? You’ve never been this way before,” he says as if I’m doing something wrong.
“Let’s keep going this way mom.”
“Well…I guess I’m just crazy. I have no idea where we are. Are you sure that…”
She insists on buying me candy when I help her like I’m a little girl. This totally pisses me off. Don’t get me wrong, I love candy, but I don’t eat much anymore, especially since I’m shedding pounds, but that doesn’t matter to mom. She always tells me that I’m too skinny and if I lose any more weight I’ll look bigger than I am and look skinny.
“It’s not healthy, Betty.”
“Betty? I made some 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 beans since I was a little girl. They gave me a tummy ache then and still do.
“You don’t like my beans, do you? Fine…you know beans don’t make you fat? They just give people gas…that’s all. I’ve figured out how to keep beans from making people fart on you I 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 soak 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. He had cancer and is in remission. He drinks a mug of vinegar every day.
“Betty? You know what drives me crazy? When your dad sneezes. I’m afraid he’s going to blow his head off one day. You know…that happens sometimes.”
Stay down I’m laughing.
“Betty? I’ve always heard that as a man grew older he lost his drive. You know what I mean by drive, don’t you?”
I shake my head hoping he won’t take it any further.
“He STILL grabs my bottom. Can you believe it?”
Yes I can believe it. Since his stroke, he keeps doing it in front of all of us.
“You know… I love that old coot. I wouldn’t take a million for him, but I wouldn’t take a dime for another one.”
I must say that 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 all her worries, all her stories, all her complaints. all her questions are part of who she is. And I’ll take it all for a few more years with this wonderful woman I call “Mom.”
As I cut the guinea pigs breakfast, mom comes up behind me and gives me a big, “I love you baby girl” hug.
“I love you too mom.”
“Can I feed the piggies?”
I hand her the tray full of vegetables. It’s one of her favorite things to do. He walks into the guinea pigs room with this cute little limp, holds the lettuce in the air and smiles just like a little girl as they lift their feet with his little starfish legs.
My mom…one in a million…I wouldn’t trade her for the world.
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