Let’s Cook: Especially for Mother’s Day
Gratitude is the word to describe my fortune in being blessed with a caring mother.
Sunday is Mother’s Day, and this year, I won’t be taking her a corsage, attending church with her, or enjoy being in her presence. My mom passed away on October 18, 2015 at the beautiful age of 95. This Mother’s Day, I will be reflecting on the many gifts she gave me as a mother.
When my youngest brother Kelly arrived, marking the fifth son, I am sure my Mom mused “Oh my goodness!” She told all of us several times that she was more concerned that we were born healthy and she checked our hands and feet right away. I have commended Mom for many things, but especially that fact that she did not focus on the stereotypical needs of our gender completely. She, early on in our childhood, often said while standing over a hot stove or mending, “There is no such thing as women’s work-only work.” This inspired her to teach all of her sons how to cook, to clean, do laundry, to have fun, to sew and to give thanks for blessings. She took great pride in knowing that her sons, like many daughters, could cook a decent meal. She had a strong faith and a good sense of humor, and when her five red-headed sons had just about put her over the edge, she came up this is plan. She would have never admitted this to us, but I am sure when she was out working in her flowers she looked up and said, “Lord, don’t do that to me again; I may not be able to be as creative next time!”
This week when I started writing this column, many thoughts came to mind. I picked up the phone and called Kelly. When I asked what he was doing he said he was writing down things that he remembered about Mom. For example, how she used to bring the cows home on the farm at Mercer; that she was baking bread for the family at age 8, etc. We visited for a long time about the goodness of Mom, and that gave me the direction to complete this column.
Memories of our mother are special. A memory that makes me smile is about my mother’s driving. My dad taught my mom to drive after they were married, and she took to it like the wild. There was never a gas pedal that could not be pushed down far enough. Riding with her was like taking a test ride in a space rocket. She could wind the motor up on our Ford LTD and not even realize it. I have lost track of how many times she made the tires squeal, laid rubber, and simply made the car almost fly. Kelly and I had called her the “Evel Knievel of Underwood.” As teenagers, our pals who like to race and hotrod were milquetoast compared to Mom’s super-charged custom style. At one point, she had lost several of the hub caps on the car so we replaced them with baby moons. They were right at home with her driving style.
When I was a freshman at Minot State without a car, Mom decided she would drive to Minot and pick me up for the weekend. I know I didn’t sleep the night before thinking about her driving in traffic. When I mentioned about not coming, she simply said “I can handle driving in Minot.” I returned to Crane Hall at noon and walked into the front entrance. There stood my Mom. She looked beautiful wearing a new grey tweed pant suit, rust scarf with matching heels and her hair done. She turned and noticed me and said “I didn’t have an accident. Now let’s walk the campus on this beautiful fall day before we have lunch.” That was the one and only time she did this, and I cherish that memory. After completing my freshman year, I truly realized what mom had given me. I was not the smartest person at Minot State, but her lessons in life skills and how to treat others served me well. Her early etiquette lessons of share your toys, say “please and “thank you,” have been the bookends to respecting others, always.
I had the honor to taking my mom to her 50th Bethesda School of Nursing reunion in St. Paul. We talked nonstop from Underwood–going and coming. You learn a lot when you spend that kind of time together. While at the reunion, I met several of her classmates and over the years have enjoying writing to them. On the way home mom mentioned this “if you are tired, I can drive for a bit.” I looked at the road, and it was straight, so I pulled over and let her have the wheel for an hour. True to forum, she connected with 75 real quick.
Mom was always concerned about the sun-especially having red-headed sons. When Kelly and I were taking swimming lessons at the Riverdale pool, she totally decked us out in the 1920’s style men’s swimsuits. We had trunks in attractive colors-mine being dark navy, lime, and white and Kelly’s lime and deep red-down below our knees. We also had navy tank tops. When we arrived at the pool, our friends laughed and asked if we had arrived in our Model T! This is what moms do, they protect their children even if it means wearing a swimsuit style from long ago.
Mostly, I miss hearing my Mom’s voice on the phone. Her voice stayed the same, and to me it was always young. She could repair broken hearts on the phone. As a child, I knew she was always on stand-by, and when I called her name after school, she came running. I thank her for giving me the love of music and for always have poems on the fridge. I thank her for showing me how to plant flowers and how to take time to enjoy the setting sun. I thank her for letting me bring home another antique piece of furniture to refinish and for her being excited. I thank her for letting me be me. I thank her for the quiet kitchen and a cup of coffee offered at the end of trying day. I thank her for letting me know I had somewhere I could go any time I needed help or guidance and I’d be welcome.
Mothers have a way of knowing things are going to change. Last Mother’s Day, my mom at 95 had an amazing day. While she was at the nursing home, I took the time to style her hair and help her with her makeup. It was another time of connecting for us. She looked wonderful in her lavender twin set, and she was so on the avenue. We attended church at the Benedictine Center in Garrison and finished our day by enjoying an afternoon cup of coffee. She then said “You need to get back to Minot now for Jan and Lydia.” I walked out of the home, and then I walked back in and took one more look because I wanted to remember. She was content sitting at her table admiring her Mother’s Day flowers. Our eyes didn’t meet but they didn’t need too. Once again a mother really knows and she cares about your life. Even at 95 she keeps you in her fondest thoughts and always in her prayers. We had our moment. Like all the other Mother’s Days, I knew she loved me dearly as she had right from the start. As I returned to Minot in silence I gave thanks for such a beautiful day and for a beautiful mom.
Letting go of my Mom has been easier because you as readers have allowed me to write many stories about her, and for that I say thanks. In closing, I would like to leave you with a quote by Melody Beattie, who like my mother, was a graduate of Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, and confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
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