Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mothers Day to the Five Mothers in My Life

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 6th grade class was on the 4th 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.

The second mother was the mother of a good friend from school. After she died, "Mrs. Frank" showed me how to use a washing machine, how to open cans (would you believe I didn't know how!!) and so much more, and kept an eye on me. She is still alive today and I hope she had a wonderful mothers day.

The third mother was my Aunt Trudy, who lived in Tampa, FL and in many ways stepped in to fill the huge hole the death of my mother created in my life. I visited her three times in 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 also died young, from pancreatic cancer.

The fourth mother was my Aunt Mary. My Aunt Mary lived out in Iowa but after I married and moved out to the Midwest, I became close to her. She was one of the most understanding, most accepting people I was ever to meet. 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 81 now and a very strong woman. I hope I have her wits and her determination when I am 81! She is a two-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. She 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.

Happy Mothers Day to all mothers. Thank you to the women above, and to their sons and daughters, some of whom are still in my life.

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