Repost: Words from My Mother

(Originally posted in 2016. – Owen)

Recently, my wife and I visited my mother, who is a good way towards the other side of the country.  After being there a few days, my wife said, “your mother is the easiest person to get along with I think I’ve ever met.”  I had to agree.  Non-complaining, generally good-natured, curious and generous, my mother is a very easy person to get along with.  It is not surprising she has made and kept friends wherever she’s been.  She has made these friends many places, and through many years and many changes in life circumstance, including growing up in abject (starvation level) poverty.

My mom has been always, from my earliest memories, very accepting of change; that has served her well throughout (so far) eighty-seven years.  With Mother’s Day upon us here in America, I thought I would display some collected wisdom from my mother.

[Upon being asked how she was coping the year after my father’s death] – Well, life is a series of changes, not all of which we get to know about in advance.  It is like being on a stage: “the dead have played their part”… as long as we’re still on the stage, we still have a part to play.

[Upon hearing someone say “we were poor, but we didn’t know we were poor.”] – Chances are really good, if you didn’t know you were poor, you weren’t poor.  When you’re poor, and don’t have food, you know you are poor.  Every time.  You really can’t miss it.

[Upon hearing “money isn’t everything”] – Money isn’t everything, but poverty isn’t anything.  At least, not anything good.

[When I asked her if she enjoyed us as children] – Being with you three was like watching a television that only has three channels: Melodrama, Mixed Martial Arts, and Uncontrolled Giggling.

[When asked about how she was doing since diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease] – I like ordering soup at restaurants now, just to see how serious they are about their carpet.  I can make an afternoon now out of trying to get a key in a keyhole.

[A few years ago, talking about my daughter’s first broken heart] – You never feel anything again as keenly as you did as a teen.  It’s like all of your nerves are on the outside of your skin; every joy, every sorrow, every embarrassment, you feel to the bottom of your soul.  Its like the entire universe can go black one moment, and then spring magically back into being a minute later because the guy pouring you a soda smiled at you.

[When asked if she worries about death] – Death, to me, is like moving into a new house; it isn’t the end product, but the process of getting there that I dread.

[On change in life] When you spend all your time reading, you spend a lot of time imagining. Still, nobody born in 1931 had any idea what 2018 would look like. Fiction is st least conceivable; reality is not. You just have to accept it.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. From one of the three inconceivable changes that you conceived —

my first heroine

your sunset was my sunrise. all the same,
you laughed to see the joy you thought i felt.
there was a bit of irony in this:
but i was in my taking phase, and so,
took you for granted, and your grace as due.

i know, because our roles are now reversed:
not times of life, but just how free you are;
although you’re rapidly approaching night,
you’ve found your grace again, and i can’t help
but glory in the wonder of it all.

for you were my first heroine; behold,
a time beside the waters, when you were
a dark young woman, with a tiny child;
whose life was stretched before her, like the sea —
as fathomless as any distant sea.

but now, our conversation breaks into
a strange, disjointed type of décollage;
like sunlight dancing on the waters edge:
a fading into something more than light,
and something less that turns into a song.

A Different Kind of Mother’s Day

She celebrates…

She celebrates ideas she’s given birth
And bathes in sunlight there beside the pond;
A different kind of life, suffused with worth
The steps she takes a private allemande

She knows a mother birthed her; but can see
That not all mothers should
A mother be

If You Were…

… this person …


If you were the thirteenth of fifteen children
And the tenth of twelve daughters
In a house during the depression
Living in squalor
With a mother on the verge of a nervous breakdown
And a drunken unemployed father
And creepy uncles you and your sisters avoided at all costs

If you were quiet and bookish brought up in this
With no money
Reliant on the charity of the Methodist church for food
With only hand-me-downs for clothes

If you were hit by a car at age five
By an elderly couple in 1937
Who felt so bad they sent you Christmas presents every year
Which made your envious sisters and brothers angry every year

If you were left only reading in public libraries and singing
To help you forget your abject poverty

If you were this person

And if, in spite of all this, you maintained a sense of humor

You would probably be my mother