On this Mothers Day I want to pay tribute to five women who helped make me into the person I am today.
The first person was my mother, who died too soon and too young. She was a stay at home mother who, I know, wanted to be in the workplace but the times (the early 1960's) did not support that. Instead, she became the mother that the neighborhood children would call for treats. Yes, call. We lived on the fourth floor of an apartment building in the Bronx. When we would play, and got hungry, we would gather under the window and yell in unison "Mom!" Somehow she always knew "Mom" meant her and not one of the other 130 Moms in the building. Well, OK, sometimes we had to yell for a few minutes. But soon, a bag would be dropped out the window for all of us to share.
Mom was so very proud that her English skills were such that she had gotten a job meant only for college graduates. She graduated from high school and never went further in her education. She had been a contest judge for a famous organization and I used to love to hear her tales about that. She had also studied to be a dental hygienist, and still had one of her textbooks. It was way too hard for me and I was amazed that she could have studied from it.
When I was 10 years old, I broke my leg. As my sixth grade class was on the fourth floor of my elementary school, and there were no elevators, the school sent a home instructor to my apartment for the two months I was out of school. As it happened, the teacher grew up in the the same neighborhood as my mother and they would have coffee and chat as I worked on my studies.
One Friday morning in November my mother left me to go shopping. When she returned, she was crying. She turned the TV on and that is how I found out about the assassination of John Kennedy.
In the last years of her life, rheumatoid arthritis stole much of her mobility and left her so exhausted that she would lie on the couch. She was so very depressed, too but I was too young to understand. I would rub her feet and help her feel better. I would go to the market with her and do the shopping while she sat in the front of the store.
|My Mom loved lilacs - too bad the neighborhood lilacs aren't quite open yet|
The third mother was an aunt and my Dad's "kid sister", who lived in Tampa, Florida for most of her adult life. In many ways she stepped in to fill the huge hole the death of my mother created in my life. I visited her (from my native New York City) three times during my teen years. She showed me and taught me many of the things that my mother would have shown me if she had been alive. My Aunt died young, from pancreatic cancer. This past January, I was fortunate in being able to visit both of her children, who still live in Florida.
The fourth mother was an aunt who lived out in Iowa. After I married and moved out to the Midwest, I became close to her. She was one of the most understanding, and most accepting people I have ever met. I list her fourth but in many ways the mark she left on me was second only to my own natural mother.
The last mother is my mother in law. She is 90 now. Sadly, she has dementia and also is in declining health. She is a three time cancer survivor and the mother of a man with autism. My brother in law was born years before autism was something discussed in the daily news.
My mother in law was one of the generation of women who did not institutionalize her son and tried to make as normal a life for him as she could while he was growing up. The parents of children with autism today owe a lot of gratitude to women like my mother in law, who "made it up" as they went along, without support, without understanding.
We all will be visiting her today, the last of my five "mothers" still alive.
|My mother in law loves flowers, too - picture taken at local nursery on Friday|
Happy Mothers Day to all mothers, and to these mothers in my life.
Do you have any mothers in your life?