First I wanted to share a YouTube video that was a good reminder for me. I told a friend the thing I dislike the most of everything going on is the polarization, fighting, and fear that an awful lot of people wish to participate in. This video is a slight twist to things I’ve suspected and suggested myself, but her words are better at conveying it.
Now for my intended topic :
For every failure my dad demonstrated, every trauma incurred by him in my childhood, my mom showed brilliance. In fact she is the one that I credit for keeping me from being completely like my dad, and teaching me better ways to live .
My mom was my protector, as much as she could be. My mom was my support, the kindness in my world. She taught me how to care about others through kindness and her own personal charity workings.
She knew how to apologise, and her biggest faults were apologizing too much and falling prey to dad’s dominance and a general poverty loop.
My memories of mom are exact opposites to the memories of dad. Where dad is mostly negative memories with a smear of positive ones, my mom is mostly positive ones with a smear of negative (and really the few negatives tie back to dad in one way or another).
My mom was the person in our family that was always doing something to help people that were less fortunate.
I remember one Christmas season my mom was worried that we ourselves would not have a holiday celebration of any significance, and knew she needed to rely on K-Mart’s layaway program to even try to provide a holiday. However, she knew someone that was struggling even worse than our family was. Their family had 3 small children and when she went to put our toys on layaway at K-Mart she picked 3 small toys for the other family to include in her layaway purchase. I remember her being worried about timing because the last payment was due right before Christmas, but ultimately she made it work and both our family and theirs had a holiday that year.
Then there was our next-door neighbor when I was about 4 years old. It was an elderly lady that had emphysema from having smoked for her whole life. The lady lived alone and had no close family to help her. She continued to smoke even while using oxygen. My mom promised her that she would come clean her mobile home and make some food for her if she promised not to smoke while her and I were there. The house always smelled strongly of cigarettes and I disliked being there, and often the lady would have a cigarette ready to light as soon as we left. Yet she never actually smoked when we were over, and my mom did continue to help her every week until we had to move away. My mom never charged her anything, only asked she pay for any groceries paid for on her behalf.
My mom was big on helping at Christmas time. She would always find an acquaintance or co-worker that was having a particularly difficult year. Sometimes she would give gifts, sometimes decorations. Occasionally, if we were having a good year she would do both. I remember several years where I helped her pick presents for other little girls. One year she helped a Mexican family she worked with and provided much of their Christmas. They had moved to Iowa City not long before that holiday season and were caring for elderly extended family from Mexico. She provided them a whole array of inexpensive decorations and small gifts for kids and even bought them a turkey. My father was very upset with her because she had helped a Mexican family in such a large way. I have always respected her choice and it always bothered me that my father kept pointing out their race.
Help is help, and anyone struggling to get through life deserves help. Those barely getting by, need the boost of a little holiday cheer sometimes, and kind hearts make the world keep functioning. That is a lesson my father missed, because he would help anyone that was white, even druggies, but not a hard working Mexican family. Charity is not about skin color, but honoring someone’s journey as being more difficult than deserved, and making an attempt to help another’s life be just a bit better than yesterday. Everyone deserves that moment.
My mom was also a nurse that mostly worked in nursing homes. Mostly working evening and 3rd shifts, there were several times that my mom would have to take us to work with her and Dad would pick us up on his way home. Hindsight being what it is, I now wonder if those supposed long shifts were parts of his affairs with other women. Regardless, what I remember on those nights is how mom always got along well with her co-workers and was kind to residents. There was one nursing home I actually enjoyed going to because they had a resident cat. The cat had made friends with mom because she was the only one that was really kind to it. So, when us kids went, we were accepted by the cat as being friendly as well. It would hang out and let me pet it the entire time I was there. The same nursing home also had a huge fish tank, or what seemed huge to me, and I loved watching the fish. But really, I remember my mom rubbing backs and convincing people to take medicine because it was good for them. I remember her patiently explaining to people that she would help them as soon as possible.
Is it any wonder I have spent nearly 8 years working with elderly? Or that I get along with my mom far better than my father?
Despite working mostly nights when I was a kid, my mom still cooked and cleaned and took care of us children during the day. I remember when I was really little trying to pry her eyes open and asking her if she was ready to get up yet. She would just say “a little longer can you watch your shows please”. I would watch all the PBS shows including Bob Ross and another lady painter that did adorable little animal paintings. That’s where I got interested in art. When I would get bored with TV I would pretend. I would play family or school or tea party, or lay in sunbeams with my kitty and daydream that the dust flecks were fairies. My stuffed animals were great friends when my mom was resting from her work shift. Then around lunchtime she would spring into action, make me lunch and start cleaning, laundry and prepping for making dinner. As I got older she would let me help by showing me how to dust or make Kool-aid.
Then eventually I started school, being the youngest for many years, and she actually got a full amount of sleep.
I remember spending holiday time baking a whole array of tasty treats with mom. I ate far too many things right out of the oven, but it was just SOOOO tasty. The best part was knowing that many of her delicious treats were for others. Should would make goodie baskets for friends and co-workers, she would give breads and cookies to neighbors. She baked pies to help other families have good holiday dinners. And it wasn’t just at Christmas. When our zucchinis would ripen she would bake loaves and loaves and give away nearly half of them. At Easter she would bake cookies and muffins and give them away with chocolates. On her birthday she would always make two cakes, one for home and one for work. All year round she would cook goodies and half always went to other people. When I was in highschool a neighbor made pickles and she would trade goodies for pickles. They would combine their leftovers for other neighbors to get some of both.
When times were really tough for my mom in Utah she would drive across state line to buy butter by the car full. She would take the butter to her neighbors and sell it cheaper than the Utah taxed butter but more than she paid. When she wasn’t running butter she hauled manure, because one farmer would pay her to clean out animal stalls and another would pay her for the load as fertilizer for crops.
She made dolls and crocheted doll dresses by hand. She baked for profit and for fund raisers for school. She crocheted blankets for friends with babies and would give them as gifts whenever she could. She made clothes for us kids when she couldn’t afford to buy new ones.
I have always felt terrible because the year bullying started for me, she had made me some very pretty dresses for school. Yet, they were not dresses found in stores, so kids noticed. They teased me for not having store clothes and then I didn’t want to wear the dresses. I knew it hurt my mom’s feelings, but the kids were hurting my feelings. There was no good solution. It was the first time I struggled with a problem like that. I have always wanted to make up for it and felt I never could.
I love my mom and I really appreciate everything she did for us and especially for what she tried to do for us. I know she did her best to keep dad’s anger at bay and protect us when she couldn’t keep it away. I know she had more than a few ingenious moments that kept our family afloat when times were tough and she made dollars go far further than most people manage. She was strong and compassionate and caring on multiple levels. She put her kids first and God second, and was always doing her best to make our lives and the lives of those she knew better. She is a kind human being and that is exactly the kind of person this world needs more of. I aim to be like my mom as much as possible, and hope maybe one-day I’ll figure out a step even slightly better.
I love you mom.
May you always have a kind person in your life. May you see acts of kindness all around you and find ways to do them yourself. May you have loving caring parents and be successful in protecting your children from the hurts of the world. May you forgive yourself and others when hurts seem to multiply or affect those you want to show love. May you know your presence in the world is helping others to have a better experience. May you know you are leaving a positive mark on the world. May you know you are loved and safe.
Siva Hir Su