15 February 2006


Remembering My Mom

My mom passed away on this date in 2001. Officially the cause of death was heart failure, but that was due to the emphysthema she had been dealing with for years. She was born in 1922, so that left her almost a year short of reaching her 80th year. More than the emphysthema, the rheumatoid arthritis broke her heart, killed her spirit.

Mack and I had moved to Daytona Beach primarily to take care of her. It was serendipitous that ERAU had an opening that I could fill when we were looking to move here. We both ended up taking jobs doing what we had been doing in Memphis, where we lived before moving this way: he as an injection molding tech; me, teaching computer and electrical engineering. Since then, he's gone on to become an environmental engineer, and I'm muy proud of him.

I've never properly memorialized my mom. She, like all of us I guess, had multiple faces. Those of us who knew her closely might think of her at times as the ice lady, but to those who only knew her casually she was one whose life was centered on fun fun fun. She had been burned, I think, by emotional intimacy. She did, in fact, have an incredible amount of energy, at least until the last years of her life, for golf, for wildflowers, for painting, for cooking, for crafts of all sorts, for getting out and doing something.

When we were little, our family was a bit of a mess. We weren't like the kids from religious families up the street. I was always surprised at how cowed, how orderly, the kids were after dinner. "May I be excused?" and all that. In our household, when you were done, you got up and left the table. If someone didn't like it, they might say so, but it wasn't rule/structure based. It was here-and-now based.

But about my mom. She was a bit of a jock. She loved playing golf perhaps more than anything else in the world, which is why the arthritis is what killed her spirit, if the emphysthema was what killed her body. She loved being outdoors. She loved to pile a bunch of us kids in the car and take us blackberry picking: She didn't give a hoot if we got scratched up from the briars, she wanted us to pick blackberrys! Or wildflowers.

She was of a generation that desired and appreciated but had a really hard time with affluence. At the height of my dad's financial successes, she had a humongous garden, and she put up more vegetables than anyone else I've ever known. She and my dad had built a ridiculously large house on the highway in my hometown of Centerville, Tennessee, but there she was with the straightback kitchen chairs up on the table pouring cooked blackberries through cheesecloth suspended from a broom between the two chairs, making blackberry jelly. She made dill pickles. She made what seemed like a zillion different kinds of pickles -- bread and butter pickles, sweet pickles, kosher dills (they probably were kosher!). She made ketchup, which I turned up my 10-year-old nose at because it wasn't as sweet as Mr. Heinz's nth variety. She put up squash; she put up tomatoes. And then she'd go to my grandmother's house on Sand Mountain in Alabama and help her do all of the same, except making the ketchup.

She was a good painter. I have some sunflowers that she did that I cherish. I can remember her having grown them herself, having cut them herself, having taken a Polaroid picture of them herself, and the painting them from the Polaroid. She didn't get much further than still lifes, but she was still doing them a couple of years before she died.

She was a wonderful cook. There was little I loved more in the world than the spice cake with caramel frosting she would make at Christmas time. Once, for her bridge club -- she loved to play cards, too -- she made a pie that had orange slices in its whipped-cream-based filling and orange rind in its topping, and I pestered her time and time again to make that pie.

She loved our dad, even though he was a hard drinker and too wild to handle at times. He just about broke her spirit with his wildness, but she never gave up on him. I figure she quit loving him at times, the way anyone who is crazy about someone else gives up for a moment every now and then, but she never left, even in the most troubling of times. I can remember being very young -- five maybe -- and her looking for him because he hadn't been home for a few days. I was with her when she found out the most crazy thing he'd done -- I'm sorry, I won't talk about it with total strangers -- and I had to ride in the car all the way back to Middle Tennessee with her from New Bern, North Carolina, after she got the news in the middle of the night.

Okay, she did leave him once, but that was before any of us were born. And when he came to the boarding house where she was staying and pounded on the front door -- and kept pounding -- and kept pounding -- and kept pounding -- until she came back home with him. She finally did give in and go back home with him.

I'm so glad we buried her next to him. She may have remarried, but she never really loved someone else the way she did him.

Yes, my brothers and I sometimes called her the ice woman. She could be cold. She could be just downright cold hearted. But she had a persistence and a never-give-in quality that I couldn't appreciate until I got older.

So today, five years after she left this world for some other side, I remember her, her spirit and her passions, and I do so with love and affection. Of course I have regrets, but there is nothing I can do about those now. We all come into this world from somewhere else, and eventually leave for either that place from whence we came or somewhere else. I am glad I had a chance to give something back to her in her later days, because she always gave to me when I was in need. Yeah, she may not have been one of the most emotionally adept moms in the world, but she never gave up on my brothers or on me, which is more than can be said for many parents.

To my mom: May you rest in peace. May you know you were loved. May your memories bring nothing but happiness to those who would only remember.

Thank you for sharing this with me. I appreciate it. Be good to yourself this day.
How very sweet Tim. It brought a tear or two to my eyes. I wish I could have known her. Im sure would be so touched and proud of your words. Tammy
Oh, Tim, how beautiful! Thanks for sharing your precious thoughts of your mother while revealing some about yourself.

Very, very nice.

Take care of yourself-

Tim, Now that I can see the screen again, I want to thank you for sharing your memories. I too, loved your mother. My life was touched by her grace, spirited personality and quality of greatness. When I was growing up she encouraged me in ways that no one else thought to do. She told me I was such a "pretty" young lady, (at 13 I actually believed her) but that gave me needed confidence. She shared her love of sewing and crafting which I still enjoy today. She would tell me stories of our Irish great-grandmother and I would long to know more. Without my Aunt Max's love and influence, I would not be who I am today. When you were growing up I did not know everything you went through. I do know your mother loved you beyond measure and always spoke of her sons with love and pride in her voice. Tim, you and Mack did a wonderful job helping to care for her during her last days. She passed away happy, knowing she was loved and cherished.
I love you!
Thank you Tim for sharing your memories of someone so important to your life. You will always be proud that you were able to demonstrate some of your love to her in her last days. I was certainly remimded of my own mother and her undying love for all of us. She imparted many important things to me, most important was the ultimate comfort of the faith that our spirits would reunite on the "other side".
Well done Tim.

I have wonderful memories of both your parents.

I will never forget my last visit with her.

Forced to use a walker and oxygen tank, she served a wonderful lunch to Eric and me, including the mayonnaise freshly prepared in her Cuisinart. They talked golf, (the Florida courses they both knew,) he admired her trophies, and the two of them concluded it was entirely possible he may have caddied for her at some point.

Class, style and that wonderful streak of "Daniel" independence. I hold those things dear about my Aunt Max.

Well, thanks to all of you for your kind comments. I'm glad I could share a few memories of my mom with you.
This is such a wonderful tribute to your Mom!! She was a wonderful lady with such style that noone could help but love her as I did. I always looked forward to her visits to Mom & Dad's ever year. I relly missed her when she could no longer come to Sand Mountain.
Tim, I just ran across your blog... and I especially appreciated your memories of your Mom.

As one of the "neighborhood kids", I always thought of her as a stern but kind lady.

One of the "wisdoms" I have learned in life is that none of our families or "upbringings" were perfect... even (especially) those that appeared so on the surface.

I am glad your Mom had you and Mack with her in her last years. It was always clear to me how much she loved you (don't tell Danny or Ray, but I think your were definitely the "favorite").

Tom M.
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